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Draft Consumer Rights Bill: The Customer is Always Right

The UK government has recently published the Draft Consumer Rights Bill, the most significant overhaul of UK consumer law reform in decades. The Draft Bill has been published but has not been formally introduced to Parliament. Originally announced in May 2013 it follows years of consultation and is now under consideration. The scope of the Draft Bill broadly reflects what was outlined by the government in the Queen's Speech, with the notable exception of a direct consumer right for misleading and aggressive practices (which will be introduced separately).

What the bill means is that providing defective goods or services will no longer be tolerated and business will not be able to hide behind obscure legislation. Business whose products and services are not up to scratch will be forced to refund consumers or replace faulty goods.

Of particular importance for traders is the proposed 30 day rule that lets customers return products they are unhappy with or receive a refund. The goods do not have to be defective it is simply sufficient that the customer is not happy with them.

Where a product is faulty traders must repair or replace it immediately and, after one failed repair or a replacement that does not work, a refund must be given. This could hit motor traders particularly, especially where new vehicles may have a number of small inherent issues.

For those providing services customers will be able to demand that substandard services are redone at the suppliers own cost or require a reduction in the bill.

The new law will also regulate film and music downloads, ebooks and online games.

The Draft Bill is in three parts:

  •        Part 1 covers the reform and consolidation of a consumer's rights and remedies for goods and services, as well as introducing new rules for digital content. It also includes limited implementation of sections of the European Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU) on delivery and risk in sales of goods.
  •        Part 2 covers the reform of the rules on unfair terms in consumer contracts.
  •        Part 3 covers enforcement powers of public enforcers and new civil remedies which can be imposed by a public enforcer on a business. It also includes the reform of consumer collective actions for anti-competitive behaviour (amending the Competition Act 1998).

Notably, the Draft Bill does not include the Law Commissions' proposals for a new direct consumer civil right for misleading and aggressive practices. The government intends to introduce this separately.

If you are a trading business you may like to consider the impact of these proposed changes on your business before they are brought in. If you are setting up a new business or looking to start trading in the UK then you need to be aware of these issues. Graham & Rosen’s experienced team can help you through the maze whether you are a local or european business. As members of TEN, the European Network of Lawyers we deal with clients from across Europe and are well placed to assist any european business considering trading in the UK. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

For advice about consumer protection and issues with faulty goods or services please contact Alex Green at Graham & Rosen on [email protected]

Adam Waller

Written By: Iain Boyle

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