On 3 June 2015, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (‘BIS’) published its Guidance for enforcers of consumer law (the ‘Guidance’) aimed at providing consumer law enforcers with information about new powers created under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to remedy breaches in consumer rights law.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (‘the Act’), on a general level, consolidates consumer law in the UK into one statute, and provides consumers with the right to refunds and repairs. Under the Act, enforcers, such as local trading standards services and the Competition and Markets Authority, will have additional powers and be able to order a defaulting business to:
- Reimburse customers for any financial loss they have suffered as a result of the breach
- Advertise its breach in the press, in its stores, on its website and on Trading Standards’ website
- Overhaul its internal procedures to limit the chance of a repeated breach
Previously, existing enforcement had not led to a positive outcome for consumers, and as a consequence, the Act widens the scope of measures available to enforcers and allows them to seek an order based upon ‘enhanced consumer measures’ (‘ECMs’). These ECMs are designed to provide public enforcers with greater flexibility to obtain the best outcome for consumers, and are aimed at reducing reoffending through providing either redress or consumer choice.
The Guidance sets out how the ECMs are intended to work and when it is appropriate to use them, but lists no specific consumer measures that could be applied. Instead, enforcers are tasked with identifying the most suitable approach to dealing with a breach and liaising with the organisation to remedy any detriment caused. The Guidance suggests that any ECM remedy chosen should be just, reasonable and appropriate; be agreed with the trader; and, unless the offence is deemed serious enough to warrant both, be used as an alternative to criminal prosecution.
Although designed for enforcers, businesses should be aware of these changes, which come into force 1 October 2015, in order to understand enforcement options available to enforcers of consumer law.