The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has finally published the draft Consumer Rights Bill, which sets out a new framework for significant reform and consolidation of consumer law in the UK as it is currently set out in numerous different pieces of legislation and is regarded as unnecessarily complex and ambiguous. A consolidation and simplification of UK consumer law is welcome as it will make it easier for businesses to understand their obligations towards consumers and should increase consumer confidence and drive economic growth.

In the digital media space, the new Consumer Rights Bill introduces a new category for digital content. This new category is intended to clarify what rights must be provided by a business to consumers for repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as film and music downloads, online games and e-books and what remedies are available when digital downloads go wrong.

In particular, the Consumer Rights Bill includes: 

  • A definition of "digital content" as data which is produced and supplied in digital form;
  • New standards that will apply to digital goods which broadly reflect the standards that apply to the sale of goods, for example, digital content must comply with standards of satisfactory quality, fitness for purpose and compliance with description; 
  • A right to compensation for damage to the consumer's device or other digital content where the trader fails to exercise reasonable skill and care when supplying the digital content. The explanatory notes to the draft Bill suggest this type of damage may occur if the digital content introduces a virus. The compensation is intended to cover the cost of replacing the damaged device. This right is also intended to apply when the digital content is supplied for free; and
  • Appropriate remedies where digital content standards are not met, such as a right to repair or replacement or the right to a refund.

However, a significant part of consumer law will remain unconsolidated as parts of the Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU) which amends the law on distance selling, will be implemented in parallel by separate secondary legislation. The reason for doing so is because the Consumer Rights Directive must be adopted by 13 December 2013 (and will be in force from 14 June 2014) and the Consumer Rights Bill will not be finalised by this deadline.

Comments on the draft Bill should be submitted by 13 September 2013. Click here for the draft Bill and here for the Explanatory Notes