The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has published a Scheme for a Consumer Rights Bill which aims to consolidate and extend Ireland’s consumer protection laws. The proposed Bill, if enacted, would be the most significant update to Ireland’s consumer protection laws in decades.

The Current Position

Consumer protection laws in Ireland currently consist of primary legislation (and associated secondary legislation), such as the Sale of Goods Acts 1893 and 1980, and secondary legislation that implements European Directives. As a result of the piecemeal development  of consumer protection law, numerous Acts and Regulations can apply to a single transaction with a consumer.  For example, the sale of goods via a website to a consumer can potentially involve the application of, among other things, the Sale of Goods Acts 1893 and 1980, the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 and 2000 (as amended in 2013 and 2014) and the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013.

The Proposals

If enacted into law, the Bill will consolidate relevant consumer legislation into a single Act and will remove the potential conflicts that can arise between the rights and remedies to which a consumer is currently entitled.  In addition, the Scheme of the Bill proposes to strengthen consumer protection through providing the following new rights:

  • Extension of Consumer Information and Cancellation Rights - The protections under the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013 will be extended to healthcare, social services, and gambling contracts;
  • Unfair terms – The rules on unfair contract terms will apply to negotiated as well as standard form contract terms; six additional contract terms will be presumed to be unfair, and it will not  be possible to exclude or limit liability for death or personal injury (a term to this effect is presumed unfair under the current legislation, but is not prohibited);
  • Goods – A standard 30 day period in which consumers can return faulty goods and get a full refund will be introduced, which will replace the complex rules that have developed under Section 35 of the Sale of Goods Act 1893 regarding acceptance of goods;
  • Services – Consumers will have a statutory right to have a substandard service remedied or refunded;
  • Downloaded Content - Statutory rights and remedies will be provided for consumers who download or stream games, music, videos, apps and other digital content;
  • Gifts – Consumers who acquire goods as gifts will have the same rights as the purchasers of the goods; and
  • Expiry Dates – There will be a ban on expiry dates for gift cards and vouchers.

What Next?

The Scheme of the Bill is open for public consultation until 28 August 2015, with a target to enact the Bill by mid-2016.