The new Consumer Rights Act (the Act), in force from today, replaces and consolidates three significant pieces of consumer legislation – The Sale of Goods Act 1979, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
It introduces some new rights relating to the purchase of goods and services, including digital content such as computer games. The Act brings welcome clarification on digital content – something which simply did not exist when the original legislation in this area was drawn up.
Although the rights for consumers buying faulty goods are getting the lion’s share of media attention, the Act also contains enhanced rights to claim against companies who have behaved anti-competitively, by maintaining artificially high prices through participation in a cartel, for example:
- For the first time “collective actions” (known in the US as “class actions”) can now be brought on behalf of all affected consumers (or small businesses) on an “opt-out” basis, meaning that all customers affected by the anti-competitive behaviour will automatically be included in the action unless they specifically opt out.
- Claims can now be brought before the specialist Competition Appeal Tribunal (the CAT) on a standalone basis i.e. without the need for an existing infringement decision from a competition authority.
- The CAT is armed with new powers to grant injunctions against alleged anti-competitive conduct.
- A new fast track procedure may make the CAT attractive as a forum for competition litigants.
It is anticipated that these changes will increase the number of competition-law based actions in the UK.
For more information, you may find these links helpful: