The government are in the process of comprehensively reforming consumer law in the UK with the Consumer Rights Bill expected to be introduced as law during this year and implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive in June 2014. Any businesses trading with Consumers do need to be aware of the proposed changes and how they will affect their business operations.
The main aims of the Bill are to:
- Reform the law on rights and remedies for goods and services;
- Introduce new rights and remedies for digital content ;
- Reform the law on unfair terms in consumer contracts and notices;
- Reform the powers of enforcement authorities under some (but not all) consumer protection legislation;
- Extend the range of remedies and measures that enforcers can impose on businesses breaching consumer law;
- Enable consumers to bring private collective actions in respect of anti-competitive behaviour by businesses.
The Consumer Rights Directive has replaced the Distance Selling Regulations through the implementation of the Consumer Contracts Regulations specifically by ensuring:
- Traders must seek the consumer’s express prior consent before taking any additional payments (e.g. pre paid boxes aren’t permitted);
- All goods purchased must be delivered within 30 calendar days unless the consumer agrees otherwise;
- Premium rate telephone lines cannot be used by the trader in connection with existing contracts;
- Traders cannot charge excessive payment surcharges if payment is made by credit card;
- A concept of digital content is introduced into UK law.
- Specific information must be provided to the consumer before they enter into the agreement at the trader’s premises;
Where a contract is made at a distance the rules
- Extend the list of information to be provided by the trader;
Include provisions for cancelling contracts for the provision of
digital content not on a tangible medium (e.g downloads);
- Extend the statutory cancellation period (cooling off period) to 14 days;
- State the trader must provide a model cancellation form;
- If certain pre contract information is not provided the cancellation period can be extended;
- Ensure that online traders make it clear at what point payment obligations will be triggered and payment taken;
- Require consumers to return goods within 14 calendar days of cancelling a contract;
- Allow a trader to withhold a refund until goods are returned ( or evidence of their return is provided);
- Allow the trader to refund a lower amount to account for the diminished value of goods when refunding payments;
- Allow for automatic cancellation of ancillary contracts on termination of a distance or off premises contract.
If you provide goods or services to consumers particularly if you do so over the internet, it would probably be worth having a word with us to ensure that your current terms and conditions comply with the revised legislation.