It has been just over a year since the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 came into force. The Regulations were introduced to prevent unfair, misleading and aggressive practices and detailed a blacklist of 31 practices that may be deemed unfair. The blacklist includes persistent and unwanted solicitations and falsely stating that a product will be available for a limited time.
Only enforcement authorities such as the Office of Fair Trading can enforce the Regulations by bringing civil and criminal actions, and officers or managers of businesses could find themselves personally liable for a fine or even a prison sentence of up to two years if convicted.
Although the main effect of the legislation to date has been to crack down on unscrupulous small enterprises, including dodgy handymen in Wiltshire and unlawful pyramid selling schemes in Bristol, particularly in the home maintenance and improvement sectors, the approach of Tiscali in their case against BT (Tiscali UK Limited v British Telecommunications plc) has shown a novel and creative use of the legislation which other businesses should take heed of if Tiscali succeed.
In Tiscali’s case, Tiscali did not argue that it had a claim under the Regulations (as individuals and companies cannot bring claims under the Regulations) but it did argue that, by breaching the Regulations, BT had engaged in interference with Tiscali’s business by unlawful means. In an interim judgment, the High Court gave Tiscali permission to bring a case on this basis.