Get ready for changes to consumer law

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The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014 came into force on 1 October 2014. These amend the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The 2008 Regulations made it a criminal offence for a trader to use a misleading or aggressive practice where that practice was a significant factor in the consumer entering into the contract. However, whereas under the 2008 Regulations the consumer had to report to Trading Standards, which would then determine whether or not to take the matter further, the 2014 Regulations empower consumers to pursue private remedies against the trader concerned.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published guidance to sit alongside the 2014 Regulations. Part 2 of the guidance sets out the new private remedies available to consumers. These include, in particular, a right to terminate the contract and obtain a refund, or the right to keep the goods or services in issue but to request a discount on the price paid. Consumers will also be able to claim damages for distress and inconvenience and for any consequential financial losses.

Whilst the guidance is of obvious interest to consumers, it is well worth traders taking the time to read it as well. Part 1 of the guidance lists the kind of practice that will trigger the new remedies.

The BIS has also published an update to the progress of the Consumer Rights Bill. The Bill was initially expected to become law this year but is now expected to enter into force on 1 October next year. The BIS intends to publish guidance on the Bill in April with sector-specific guidance to follow in the months between April and implementation. When at last it is implemented the Bill will consolidate consumer rights and remedies in respect of the supply of goods and services and, at the same time, introduce important changes to the existing regime. Business supplying consumers will need to review existing practices and documentation prior to the Bill coming into force. We will provide further updates in 2015.