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Changes to consumer law from October 2014

Need to know guide to changes to consumer contracts and new rights for consumers to sue.

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From 1 October 2014, consumers will have new rights to bring action against traders who use misleading and aggressive practices.

Since June this year, business providing goods and/or services to consumers online or by email or phone have also been subject to new regulations. 

Here’s a summary of the recent and upcoming changes:

Changes to Consumer Contracts Regulations (from June 2014)

As of 13 June changes to the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 have introduced the remaining provisions outlined in the 2011 Consumer Rights Directive. 

The key changes apply to distance contracts (contracts made online, by email, telephone and post) and off-premises contracts (contracts made away from the businesses’ premises, e.g. by visiting a person’s home).

These include: 

Pre-contract information requirements

Businesses must provide more details about cancellation rights, return costs and information about complaint and redress mechanisms. Failure to do this could result in a fine.

Cancellation rights

The ‘cooling off period’ for the consumer has now been extended to 14 days

Refunds

Businesses must now provide a full refund within 14 days of cancellation or receipt of goods. They can retain the refund until the goods are returned, and can also reduce the amount of the refund to reflect any diminished value in the returned goods

Additional payments/ pre-ticked boxes 

Consumers must expressly/actively agree to any additional payment before it is taken. Any pre-ticked box that results in an additional payment is not permitted

Delivery 

Unless agreed otherwise, goods must be delivered within 30 days. 

Helplines 

Businesses must provide helplines and can’t charge more than a basic rate for the call (no more premium lines).

Digital contracts 

For the first time, the rules cover digital content (e.g. downloads and streamed content). For example, consumers can’t cancel a download if started, provided the business has told them and obtained their acknowledgement

Excluded contracts 

Certain sectors are excluded such as gambling and most financial services. For others, such as passenger transport services and car rental, the rules only partially apply. 

New rights for consumer redress (from October 2014)

1 October sees the introduction of regulations that will give consumers new rights of redress if they are affected by breaches in the Consumer Protection and Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). The CPRs essentially criminalise misleading and aggressive commercial practices by businesses towards consumers.

The new regulations allow consumers to bring a claim via the civil courts for redress where misleading actions or aggressive practices by businesses are found to have occurred and have caused them harm. In other words if you behave unfairly or in bad faith your business could now find itself pursued in the civil courts by aggrieved consumers.

Previously businesses had only to worry about being chased up by Competition and Markets Authority or the Office of Fair Trading.

The regulations will also allow the consumer to: 

  • Back out of a contract and get a full refund with 90 days of the contract being entered into or goods being delivered
  • Receive a discount (which will depend on the amount of harm and impact on the consumer), and 
  • Claim damages for any additional losses or harm they have suffered. 

The new rights will apply to business and consumer contracts entered into, or payments made, on or after 1 October 2014. The government has recently issued guidance for businesses on the new rights ahead of their introduction.

For more information, and to find out how legal protection insurance included in Forum membership can protect your business from contract disputes, call us now on 0845 130 1722.

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