The Consumer Rights Directive, agreed by the European Commission in 2011, focuses on simplifying and harmonising rules in a few key areas of consumer rights, including ensuring that consumers have the information and time they need to make good decisions, are fully aware of all the costs they are committing to and the implications of any contract. It also helps make sure that those traders who treat consumers fairly are not disadvantaged by those who use less transparent practices to lure consumers to less competitive offers.
Consumer Affairs Minister Norman Lamb has said:
“This is an area where Europe can make a big impact on our day to day lives. Many people will have been ripped off at some point by hidden online charges while booking a holiday, premium rate helplines when returning a purchase or disproportionate and often unexpected charges for paying with credit or debit cards.
“The Consumer Rights Directive will put an end to certain bad business practices and help consumers make well-informed decisions when buying products or services. It will also boost business confidence, setting out clearer rules and responsibilities and cutting red tape by reducing compliance costs.”
The Consumer Rights Directive contains provisions on:
· Information to be given before a consumer buys goods or services on the trader’s premises
· Information to be given before a consumer buys goods or services away from the trader’s premises (e.g. at home or at a fair), or at a distance (internet, telesales)
· Cancellation rights and responsibilities where the consumer buys goods or services away from the trader’s premises or at a distance
· Delivery times for goods - clarifying what deadlines for delivery should be and where responsibilities lie if there is a problem
· Post-contract customer helplines, where existing customers must be charged no more than the basic rate for phone calls
· Additional payments (on top of the main price of a purchase) which would need to have active or express consent of the consumer. An example is that pre-ticked boxes which the consumer must ‘untick’ will no longer be allowed
· Fees charged for a particular method of payment (e.g. credit card surcharges). This will be the subject of a separate consultation, to be published shortly.
Notes to editors:
1. The consultation will be available to view and comment on from Monday 20 August 2012 at www.bis.gov.uk/consultations
2. The Consumer Rights Directive can be found on the European Commission website at http://ec.europa.eu/justice/consumer-marketing/rights-contracts/directive/index_en.htm
3. The UK is required to apply the provisions of the Consumer Rights Directive to all contracts between traders and consumers, but with some exceptions. These are notably financial services, gambling, healthcare by regulated professionals, social services, package travel, timeshare, property transactions, and most aspects of passenger transport. Application of the Directive to these sectors is discretionary, and the consultation seeks views on areas where the UK may want to consider this carefully.
4. The Government's economic policy objective is to achieve 'strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries.' It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:
· To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
· To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
· To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
· To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.
Work is underway across Government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the Government wants the economy to travel.
5. BIS's online newsroom contains the latest press notices and speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See http://www.bis.gov.uk/newsroom for more information.