Business Law: Businesses need to be aware of new consumer protection rules, warns Laura Cullen

Laura Cullen of Gotelee Solicitors

Laura Cullen of Gotelee Solicitors - Credit: Archant

Do you know what rights consumers are entitled to? Even if you do, there are more changes afoot.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 have now been published in draft. These regulations (subject to any amendment) must be implemented and applied to consumer contract law by the beginning of June 2014.

The draft regulations aim to protect consumers from being subjected to unfair terms or entering into agreements where they have not been given enough information to make an informed decision. The changes will place more obligations on businesses, as the onus is on traders to make sure they keep their terms and conditions up to date, which may feel like a never ending job.

Changes to be introduced will cover all consumer contracts including in-store, out of store and distance selling contracts, with only a few exceptions. The main objectives of the draft regulations are to clarify what information a trader must give to a consumer, to set out what cancellation rights they have and to stop traders from imposing any hidden costs.

For the most part, traders must continue to provide all of the information they already give. However, the draft regulations will add new requirements. For example for in-store contracts, traders are now under an obligation to give certain information before the consumer enters into the agreement (although this does not include certain “day-to-day” sales).

Consumers will also be afforded 14 calendar days to cancel a contract (instead of seven) for both out-of-store and distance agreements, even if there is “no fault”. It is worth noting that if a trader fails to notify the consumer of these cancellation rights then this period increases from 14 days to 12 months.

Probably of most interest to consumers, the draft regulations aim to stop hidden costs. For example traders will no longer be allowed to have pre-ticked boxes on their websites where the consumer agrees to extra payments.

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Whilst these regulations are not yet necessarily in their final form, they are worth taking note of as the terms within them will be required, one way or another, in order to ensure harmonisation of our law with other European Union member states. Therefore, watch this space!

: : Laura Cullen is a commercial lawyer with Gotelee Solicitors.

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