“The last few years have seen significant changes to consumer protection laws.
And there’s more to come, with further changes in the pipeline over the next 12 to 18 months (and beyond) at both UK and EU level. The aim is to improve consumers’ understanding of terms and conditions, ensure compliance, and remove barriers to cross-border trade.”
Tom Harding, Associate Director, Osborne Clarke
Q2 2016 – BIS consultation on terms and conditions in consumer contracts
On 1 March 2016 the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) issued a call for evidence seeking a better understanding of how terms and conditions in consumer contracts could be made more user-friendly.
BIS is also investigating whether the range of enforcement powers currently available to ensure compliance with consumer protection laws is sufficient. In particular, it is seeking views on new powers to impose civil monetary penalties or fines on non-compliant businesses.
The consultation closes on 25 April 2016. The government has committed to making its recommendations in spring 2016.
2016 – Digital Single Market
On 9 December 2015, the European Commission released the first legislative proposals under its Digital Single Market strategy. The Commission published draft Directives on:
- contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods; and
- contracts for the supply of digital content.
The proposals aim to tackle what the Commission perceives as the main obstacles to cross-border e-commerce in the EU: fragmentation of laws across the EU, and a lack of trust by consumers when purchasing online from other countries.
These initiatives are priorities for the Commission and we are expecting draft texts to be prepared during 2016, although none of the changes are likely to take effect until 2017 at the earliest.
Following its consultation on the cost of cross-border parcel delivery, the Commission has also announced its intention to propose measures targeting cross-border parcel delivery prices in the spring of 2016.
For more information and analysis see our dedicated Digital Single Market hub.
2016 – BIS consultation on extending consumer protection to small businesses
In 2015 BIS carried out a consultation on the protection of micro and small businesses when purchasing goods and services.
In unregulated sectors, the government concluded that there is a need for further investigation; it will now progress the issue by consulting on whether further protections are needed.
The consultation did not focus on regulated sectors, where the UK Regulators Network will consider what protections its member regulators need, as part of its 2016 programme.
1 October 2016 – Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA): Consumer transport services
The main provisions of the CRA 2015 came into force on 1 October 2015. The CRA’s provisions regarding consumer transport services were due to come into effect on 6 April 2016, but this has been pushed back to 1 October 2016.
2016/17 REFIT: “Fitness Check” of 6 consumer protection Directives
The Commission has started work on its “Fitness Check” of six key consumer protection Directives (including the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, Sales and Guarantees Directive and Unfair Contract Terms Directive).
Although the Consumer Rights Directive is not part of the Fitness Check, the Commission is also required to prepare a report on it during 2016, which will feed into the same process.
The Fitness Check is part of the Commission’s “REFIT” programme, which is aimed at making EU law simpler and reducing regulatory costs. The Fitness Check will be carried out throughout 2016, with the Commission’s report expected in the second quarter of 2017.