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Eversheds comment: UK Consumer Rights Bill begins Parliamentary passage

  • United Kingdom

    24-01-2014

    onsumer rights directive - Multijurisdictional guide

    On Thursday 23 January 2014 the UK Consumer Rights Bill was finally introduced to the House of Commons and, as a result, will start its Parliamentary progress. The intention of the Bill is to reform and consolidate the vast majority of UK consumer law, including provisions relating to the supply of goods, the supply of services, unfair contract terms, defective digital content and enforcement powers.

    The Bill was previously published in June 2013 for pre-legislative scrutiny, with the BIS Select Committee publishing a report setting out its recommendations. Subsequent to this, the Government has now published the revised version of the draft Bill, which will now be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, with the expectation that it is unlikely to become law until at least 2016.

    Matthew Gough, partner and head of consumer law at global law firm Eversheds, comments:

    “The Parliamentary process has now officially begun for the Consumer Rights Bill, and this is a significant development in consumer rights law. However, it will take some time before these much awaited changes finally become law.

    “The most recent draft of the Consumer Rights Bill varies from the June 2013 version in various ways, including notably the removal of the previously proposed change to unfair terms legislation which would have required traders to bring to a consumer’s attention particularly onerous or unusual terms. The Government has said that it shared concerns that such a provision may not in fact benefit consumers, stating that ‘the new requirement for terms to be “prominent” to avoid assessment for fairness will ensure important terms will be made prominent by the trader, if they are to be exempt from being able to be assessed for fairness’.

    “These changes to consumer rights law are well overdue, especially in terms of accommodating advances in technology. Clarification and simplification of the law will bring benefits for consumers and businesses alike, but research from Eversheds shows that the majority (64%) of businesses appear to be unaware of what is coming in the Consumer Rights Bill and how they will need to adapt.

    “Ignorance is bliss for businesses at the moment, with only 26% of respondents expressing concern about the impact the Consumer Rights Bill will have on their business. It is vital that many more businesses familiarise themselves with the changes ahead and ensure they are prepared to review and update their sales practices, both online and offline, in order to comply with these changes when they come into force, as well as making sure that they are prepared for the enforcement of the Consumer Rights Directive from June this year.”

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