This Briefing is relevant to Food Sector businesses who provide goods and/or services to consumers.

In July 2012, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) published a proposal on the reform of consumer law, with the aim of simplifying and clarifying the law surrounding the supply of goods, services and digital content supplied under a contract.

BIS argues that consumer law, as it stands, is overly complex and difficult for businesses and consumers alike to understand. With this in mind BIS has put forward the proposals set out below, with such reforms intended to be catered for in the proposed Consumer Rights Bill.

Services

With regard to ‘faulty’ services, BIS are proposing:

  • the replacement of ‘implied terms’, as set out above;
  • the creation of basic statutory remedies when services are defective; and
  • in line with the goods regime, the possible introduction of a “satisfactory quality” standard for certain types of service.

Goods

In respect of sub-standard goods, BIS’ key proposals are:

  • the replacement of the ‘implied terms’ system with a clear set of statutory guarantees;
  • the creation of a set, clear time limit of 30 days for the rejection of goods with a concurrent full refund;
  • to add clarity regarding the number of times a retailer can repair  and/or replace  goods before the obligation to offer a refund applies; and
  • the limitation of the extent to which retailers can reduce the amount of a refund.

Digital Content

For digital content, BIS’ proposals are as follows:-

  • the provision of implied terms, based on those provided within the Sale Of Goods Act, regarding the quality of digital content;
  • the provision of statutory remedies for the breach of the above mentioned quality standards, including the right to reject with a full refund where the digital content has not been accepted; and
  • the adoption of provisions within the Consumer Rights Directive (approved in October 2011), including the requirement to provide certain pre-contractual information, in relation to the digital content and supplier, to the consumer, and the requirement to allow consumers a 14-day cooling off period to cancel a transaction.

The proposals will have a significant effect in modernising consumer law, much of which was written around thirty years ago, particularly in relation to digital content which is not catered for in the current regime. BIS also believes that the recommendations, in simplifying the law, will save businesses money by reducing the need for legal or dispute resolution costs.

The consultation ends on 5 October 2012 and to read the same in full, please click here.