The consumer law landscape is going through a period of significant change, with a raft of new obligations and responsibilities on the horizon for retailers, service providers, app developers and all other businesses which sell goods, services and digital content directly to consumers. There is also likely to be an impact on businesses further up the supply chain.
When is it happening?
The most imminent of the various reforms is the implementation of the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which will apply to most contracts with consumers entered into after 13 June 2014.
How will it affect your business?
The Regulations introduce a number of new obligations and responsibilities for consumer-facing businesses, including:
- changes to the pre-contract information requirements for distance contracts (online, telephone) and off-premises contracts (concluded following a meeting with the consumer away from the trader's premises)
- new obligations to provide pre-contract information for contracts other than distance or off-premises contracts (eg sales made in store)
- increase in the cooling-off period from 7 to 14 days and reduced time period for reimbursing consumers who cancel
- obligation to provide model cancellation form where right to cancel applies
- requirement to deliver goods within 30 days unless otherwise agreed
- for online contracts, a requirement to highlight the point at which the customer is committing to pay, using clear wording on the order/submit button
- ban on pre-ticked boxes committing consumers to additional payments beyond the core product/service
- ban on premium-rate customer helplines
What's the risk of failing to comply?
It depends on what you fail to do, but the risks include:
- breach of contract claims or contracts with consumers being unenforceable
- consumers' rights to cancel and claim a refund being extended from 14 days to over 12 months
- regulatory action, including the potential for criminal prosecution
How can we help?
We can assist by auditing your sales documents and processes to ensure that changes are made where necessary in order to comply with the Regulations. This would involve reviewing your terms and conditions of sale or service, what information you provide to consumers and when you provide it and (for online businesses) checking that your web pages contain all the required information in the right place to ensure compliance.
We are also able to provide training to customer-facing staff where required, to ensure that your company handles customer calls and enquiries in a way that complies with consumers’ rights.