“The last few years have seen significant movement in the world of consumer protection. The much-awaited Consumer Rights Act 2015, in force from 1 October 2015, is the biggest transformation.
We are expecting further changes over the next 12 to 18 months, with a continuing focus on consumer protection and removing barriers to trade.”
1 October 2015 – Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“CRA”) is aimed at ‘streamlining’ consumers’ rights. Many of the concepts in the CRA will already be familiar (for example, that goods should be of a satisfactory quality and services should be performed with reasonable care and skill), but the CRA will harmonise, update and in some cases bolster consumers’ rights. For example, digital content contracts will be specifically regulated under the CRA.
The CRA’s provisions regarding contracts for rail passenger services, carriage by air and sea and inland waterway transport will come into effect later, on 1 April 2016.
Late 2015 – Early 2016 – European Commission consultation on contract rules for online purchases of digital content and tangible goods
The EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy (see our hub here) sets out the EU’s strategic approach to removing barriers to cross-border e-commerce. The European Commission believes that one of the key barriers is the difference across EU Member States of contract laws that apply to cross-border trade.
As part of that strategic approach, between June and September 2015 the Commission ran a consultation aiming to find solutions to those contract law obstacles that limit the cross-border online sale of digital content and tangible goods. We expect the Commission’s response to that consultation in late 2015/early 2016.
Late 2015 – Early 2016 – BIS consultation on extending consumer protection to small businesses
In summer 2015, BIS published a consultation on whether small businesses should have similar protections to consumers when purchasing goods and services.
The consultation is driven by concern that some small and micro-businesses are vulnerable to supplier pressure in the same ways as consumers and may benefit from certain protections. The counter-argument to this is that protective measures could create legal uncertainty and increase the financial and administrative burden for businesses.
BIS’s report is expected in late 2015 or early 2016.
Late 2015 – Early 2016 – Direct enforcement against copycat packaging
In 2014, BIS conducted a consultation on giving businesses a civil injunctive power in relation to copycat packaging. Although the process has been delayed, a report is due from BIS following this consultation process
BIS’s report is expected to be published in late 2015 or early 2016.
9 January 2016 – Online Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes Regulation (524/2013)
The Online Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes Regulation requires the Commission to establish an online platform (the ODR Platform) to facilitate communication between between businesses and consumers where a dispute arises regarding an online transaction.
All businesses that sell goods or services online must provide a link to the ODR Platform from 9 January 2016 (the UK Government has various responsibilities to meet prior to this date).