The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is consulting on its proposed approach to implementing the Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU) (CRD).
The CRD was agreed by all Member States of the European Union in October 2011. Its aim is to simplify and harmonise rules in a limited number of key areas, to encourage growth and to raise consumer confidence in buying across borders. The CRD will apply, subject to certain exceptions, to all contracts for sales of goods and services by traders to consumers within the United Kingdom and across EU borders.
The CRD focuses on, amongst other things, ensuring transparency of information, cancellation rights for distance and off-premises contracts, prohibition of excessive fees for paying the trader and excessive phone charges for consumers contacting traders about existing contracts.
The consultation highlights the areas of the CRD where Member States still have some flexibility with regard to its application, as most CRD provisions are maximum harmonisation measures. In addition, the consultation also seeks views on whether there are provisions within the CRD that may be vague and where additional clarity would benefit businesses and consumers, and on the financial impacts that will result from implementation of the CRD.
The UK Government proposes to implement the CRD by adopting the exact provisions into national law, staying close to the wording of the CRD. This will ensure the CRD is implemented correctly, but might lead to ambiguity in some areas. The Government might resolve this by issuing some additional guidance, or elaborating on CRD wording where guidance would be insufficient.
The Government also proposes to implement the CRD through secondary legislation as part of the package of measures developed around the Consumer Rights Bill. It may, however, still consider implementing the CRD through the Consumer Rights Bill itself.
The consultation period began on 20 August 2012 and will close on 1 November 2012. The Government will issue its response by 6 March 2013.
The consultation is useful in highlighting certain areas of concern that should be considered by businesses and consumers. The suggestion that the CRD is to be implemented by way of a statutory instrument, and the fact that some existing regulations will still apply in conjunction with the new legislation, seems to be at odds with BIS’s desire to simply consolidate the consumer law regime.