CPRs came into force on 28 May 2008. They implement an EU Directive designed to increase and harmonise consumer protection across the EU. The CPRs repeal a number of existing UK consumer protection laws and will create a more modern and simplified consumer protection framework.

The CPRs apply to all business sectors (which includes a trade, craft or profession) dealing with consumers – so bars, restaurants, activity centres and even solicitors will be covered! All commercial practices directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of a product to a consumer before, during and after a transaction are included. A “product” is defined as any “goods or service”.

Some banned practices are pretty straightforward such as giving false or misleading information about a product or using aggressive sales techniques which cause a consumer to buy a product that they would not normally have bought.

The greatest risk to the Hospitality and Leisure Sector is likely to be in the advertising or listing of products. Adverts must contain sufficient information about the trader, the product and price. This will also include bar price lists and restaurant menus as well as more “traditional “advertising.

There are also 31 specified practices which will always be unfair including “bait advertising” i.e. advertising a product at a certain price without disclosing that the trader will not be able to supply the product in reasonable time and quantity. For example, a bar advertises champagne for £10 a bottle. It only has 20 available at this price. Demand is likely to far exceed supply. The bar knows this but fails to make it clear that only limited numbers are available. This will be an unfair practice.

There is a wide range of tools available to the enforcement authorities ranging from advice and guidance to prosecution. Test purchases can be made to check compliance and officers can enter premises to seize goods and documents if it is believed that an infringement has taken place.

If a trader is prosecuted, then each contravention is punishable by a maximum fine in the Magistrates’ Court of £5000. If an offence is sufficiently serious, then the matter could be sent to the Crown Court where fines are unlimited and prison sentences of up to two years can be handed out. The trader will also need to pay the prosecution’s legal and investigatory costs, as well as his own legal costs.

Finally, any offence committed by a company which is shown to have been committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of an officer of that company, then that officer is also guilty of an offence and can also be prosecuted.

A full copy of this article can be found at http://www.cobbetts.com/PublicationsEvents/ AllPublications/SellersbewareThehardsellcouldsoonbecomecriminal