2015 – the year of the consumer?


2014 saw the main focus of commercial law on consumer protection legislation. Terri Corti looks at what this means for you the consumer.

The Consumer Rights Directive

The Consumer Rights Directive came into force on 13 June 2014 and strengthens the existing Distance Selling Regulations. This means that consumers cannot be subject to unwarranted and additional charges e.g. credit card payment surcharges must now not be ‘excessive’.

It also adds additional automatic rights of cancellation for consumer contracts, so that, for instance, ancillary contracts are also automatically cancelled at the same time.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations

The Government added a new right to sue for aggressive or misleading selling practices from 1 October 2014; this is again a protection limited to consumers.

This give you new rights to redress – specifically if you’ve been the victim of a misleading action – for example a false statement – or aggressive selling.

These break down into three key areas:

  • A right to undo the contract. You will be able to end the contract as long as you haven’t fully consumed goods or digital products, or received a service in full. To get a refund you will also have to exercise your right to unwind the contract not more than 90 days from when you received the goods or the service started.  This is on the provision that any goods supplied to you are made available for collection by the trader. 
  • A right to a discount on the price paid. You will be able to seek a discount in respect of past or future payments due under a contract. The new regulations entitle you to a 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% discount on the payments depending on whether the trader’s breach is considered to be minor, significant, serious or very serious.  The level of seriousness of the trader’s actions will depend on their behaviour, the impact this has had on you and how long it has been since you signed the contract.
  • An entitlement to seek damages. If you incur a financial loss that you wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the trader’s actions, you will be able to make a claim for damages.  A claim can also be made if you have suffered alarm, distress or physical inconvenience or discomfort as a result of the trader’s actions. Be aware that these regulations give the trader a defence to a claim for damages in certain circumstance, for example if they can demonstrate that their actions were accidental, due to a mistake or factors outside their control. 

Generally, this emphasis on consumer legislation is set to continue in 2015 with the Consumer Rights Bill and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill both originally scheduled to receive the Royal Assent (and so become law) in this Parliamentary session.

However, the General Election of 2015 is fast approaching, and it may well be that this ‘housekeeping’ legislation goes by the wayside in the face of an incoming Parliament’s new legislative programme.The Company and Commercial team will be providing regular updates and information in the monthly Pinney Talfourd newsletter. If you are not already on our mailing list you can subscribe here.

This article was written by Terri Corti, Consultant Solicitor in the Commercial Team at Pinney Talfourd. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at January 2015.


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