The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, today published the blueprint for a new Consumer Rights Bill, which aims to streamline the existing patchwork of primary, secondary and European legislation on consumer protection in Ireland.

Among the proposed changes are:

  • Plans to extend unfair contract terms protections to contracts negotiated by the consumer (as opposed to standard form contracts alone, such as utility contracts);
  • Plans to advance consumer rights to holders of gift vouchers, and
  • New information rights for consumers in the areas of healthcare, social services and gambling.

Notably, the first draft includes a consumer right to a full refund within 30 days, rather than just to a replacement or repair, for faulty goods.

These are interesting times for consumer protection and digital content. The proposals contain rights and remedies for purchasers of intangible digital content. While similar rights and remedies have long applied to digital content supplied in a tangible form, such as DVDs, full consumer protection in the area of downloading and streaming is a new departure in Ireland.

These changes will be good news for consumers. Retailers will have to watch progress of the legislation closely. Businesses, especially those selling online, may need to review their standard terms of conditions of sale, as well as business practices at pre-contract stage, before the legislation comes into force.