Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014
The Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014 were introduced on 1 October, creating a potential new action for consumers who have suffered as a result of companies who have practised misleading or aggressive behaviour when selling products.
Prior to the amendment, the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008 went some way to protecting consumers from companies who were misleading or aggressive in the way they conducted their selling or commercial practises. However, any redress could not be made by the consumer directly. In most cases, action would need to have been brought by a regulatory body, such as Trading Standards – until now.
Since the new Regulations have come into force, consumers will now be able to bring a claim in the civil courts where a trader engages in a ‘prohibited practise’ and causes them consumer harm.
What needs to be established?
Firstly, a consumer must show that they have entered into a contract with a trader for the sale or supply of a product by or to a trader, or that they have made a payment for a supply of a product.
Secondly, a ‘prohibited action’ will need to be proven, such as a misleading or aggressive action by the trader. A misleading action could be where an advertisement has promoted a product which does not necessarily exist or has the exaggerated what it is. Aggressive practises can be when a business uses threatening behaviour to persuade a consumer to commit to a transaction or induce them into a contract. Any such aggressive sales tactics which influence a consumer’s freedom of choice could be construed as a breach of the Regulations.
The final condition under the Regulations required to bring a successful action is that the consumer will need to show that the prohibited practise which caused them harm was a ‘significant factor in the consumer’s decision to enter into the contract or make the payment’.
If a breach is proven, the consumer has the right of redress to either: a) unwind the contract, b) claim for damages, or c) request a discount where they have purchased a product from a trader.
To unwind a contract, generally the redress will be available if the consumer rejects the product sold to them within 90 days of entering into the contract or at a time when the product is still capable of being rejected.
A right to damages is created where the consumer has either (i) incurred financial loss which he or she would not have incurred if the prohibited practice in question had not taken place, or (ii) he or she has suffered alarm, distress or physical inconvenience or discomfort which they would not have otherwise suffered.
Finally, a right to a discount is created where a consumer has entered into a contract with a trader for the sale or supply of a product by the trader, and has not exercised their right to unwind the contract. The discount depends on the severity of the prohibited practise, but the regulations state that if it is a ‘very serious’, a 100% discount can be applied.
Traders nevertheless do have a defence if they can show that they took reasonable steps to avoid the misleading or aggressive practise, and instead were caused by mistake or by other means which they could not control.
The regulations will no doubt be welcomed by consumers across the country, adding further protection against misleading and aggressive selling from consumer contracts entered into on or after 1 October 2014. More importantly, there is a clear avenue and redress for consumers who do fall victim to these practises and wish to take further action when harm is caused.
If you experiences problems as a result of entering into a consumer contract, Andrew King heads up the firm’s Dispute Resolution department and will be happy to discuss your rights with you. You can contact Andrew on 01494 773377 or by email at [email protected]
This article is for guidance purposes only and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. It offers guidance on the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014 in general terms and does not address any specific exclusions that might apply.