the Consumer Rights Directive
The Consumer Rights Directive (the Directive) was agreed by all
Member States of the European Union in October 2011. It is
not intended to centralise all of the various consumer rights
legislation. Instead, its aim is to harmonise the law
governing consumer rights between Member States. The
intention being that consumers will be more confident to buy across
borders and therefore have greater choice available to them
including access to the lowest prices.
According to Norman Lamb, former Consumer
Affairs Minister, the Directive, "focuses on ensuring that
consumers have the information and time they need to make good
decisions, fully aware of all the costs they are committing to and
any implications of entering into a contract."
Due to the aim of harmonisation, the UK
Government has not been given much flexibility as to the
implementation of the Directive. It is therefore likely that
it will be implemented by 'copying-out' the provisions into
national law. This means keeping closely to the wording of
the Directive without elaborating or 'gold-plating', which might
put the UK at a competitive disadvantage.
The Directive is currently in a period of
consultation that ends on 1 November 2012. For
details on how to have your say in the consultation please refer to
the Department of Business Innovation & Skills website.
Member States must implement the Directive by 13
December 2013 and apply measures to do so by 13 June 2014.
The Directive will apply to contracts concluded after 13 June
The provisions of the Directive are currently
anticipated to affect the following aspects of the
- whilst on the trader's premises it
deals with what information needs to be given before a consumer
buys goods or services
- whilst away from the trader's premises (at home
or at a fair) or at a distance (internet, telesales, etc.) it deals
with what information is to be given before a consumer buys goods
or services and also with cancellation rights and
- for all sales of goods and services within the
scope of the Directive, whether or not bought away from the
trader’s premises or at a distance it deals with:
- what fees can be charged for a particular
method of payment (credit card surcharges). These must not exceed
the cost to the trader of using that method
- the delivery times for goods and the passing of risk looking at
deadlines for delivery of goods and if there is a problem, where
the responsibility lies
- post-contract customer helplines, which must be charged at no
more than the basic rate for the telephone call
- additional payments, which are additional to the main price for
the goods or services. These must be the subject of active or
express consent by the consumer. Pre-ticked boxes that the
consumer must ‘un-tick’ will no longer be permitted.
This will result in the following pieces of
familiar legislation being affected by the Directive once it is
- Sale of Goods Act 1979
- Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
- Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations
- Consumer Protection (Distance Selling)
- Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations
- The Cancellation of Contracts made in a
Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008. (Doorstop
Selling Regulations), and
- Provision of Services Regulations 2009.
Given that most businesses dealing with
consumers will be affected, now is the time to have your say –
either by taking part in the consultation individually or as part
of a trade association submission.
The implementation of this Directive is not the
only proposed change to the law on consumer rights. As can be
seen by the volume of aforementioned regulations and legislation,
the law on consumer rights is complex and cumbersome. It was
therefore envisaged following a variety of reports by the Law
Commission over the last few years that there would be a UK Bill of
Consumer Rights that would update, clarify and consolidate the law
on: goods and services, digital content, unfair contract terms and
consumer protection, in particular reforming consumer redress for
misleading and aggressive practices. Most of these reforms
are currently on hold until the Directive has been implemented.
It will be interesting to see which of the proposed reforms
will materialise in the UK if the Government 'copies-out' the
Directive as planned.
However, the Law Commission is currently in
consultation about reforms to the law in the UK on unfair contract
terms in consumer contracts. The consultation period ends on
25 October 2011. For details about how to take part in the
please visit the Law Commission website.