The Chancellor has raised prospects for tougher consumer legislation. Our Senior Associate Edward Garston explains what this could mean for both consumers and businesses alike.
Better legal rights for consumers received an unexpected mention in the Chancellor’s budget speech, with an announcement that the government plans to bring forward a green paper examining consumer markets.
Thin on detail, the announcement hinted at new legislation clearing the way to allow courts to fine companies that break consumer law. The government hopes that this will be a strong deterrent, and certainly the prospect of civil penalties along with the accompanying adverse publicity will sharpen the focus of those operating in the consumer sector.
The law as it relates to consumers was overhauled at the end of 2015 with the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act, which consolidated and repealed much of the existing legislation. Amongst other things, this requires retailers and the providers of services to consumers to state terms in plain and intelligible language. It also specifies which terms are blacklisted, or unfair, and therefore unenforceable against a consumer.
Clearly, the Chancellor believes that there is more work to do as the green paper will specifically consider how to make terms and conditions clearer, simpler and shorter. In particular, proposals are to be developed offering protection from unexpected charges on the renewal of a subscription or the termination of a free trial.
With an increasing number of terms being found “unfair” coupled with the threat of civil fines against offenders, businesses that deal with consumers can no longer be complacent about their standard contracts. If you deal with consumers, and your terms have not been properly reviewed recently, then you would be well advised to contact the commercial department of Pinney Talfourd LLP for a review.
If you are a business that deals directly with consumers and would like your terms reviewed, please contact Edward Garston, a Senior Associate in the Company Commercial Department. Call on 01708 229444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Edward Garston, a company commercial solicitor at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of March 2017.