Seminar on the Consumer Rights Bill

On 13 March 2013, the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance met to discuss the forthcoming Consumer Rights Bill.

Speakers welcomed the Bill which aims to simplify and consolidate key consumer rights covering contracts for goods, services, digital content and the law relating to unfair terms in consumer contracts.

Harriet Knighton and Charlotte DuBern from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, gave an overview of the Bill. There was agreement from Teresa Perchard, from Citizens Advice, Mark McLaren from Which? and Andy Foster from Trading Standards that having all consumer rights in one place, and in easier-to-understand language, was a significant step forward for consumer protection and long overdue.

However, Teresa Perchard and Mark McLaren both expressed concerns that the forthcoming Bill could be used to reduce consumer protection and that it was important to be vigilant to ensure this did not happen.

There was also a feeling that the Bill might turn out to be a missed opportunity. Citizens Advice, in particular, were concerned that new consumer legislation should include measures to improve consumers’ access to redress for faulty goods and substandard service.

Teresa Perchard outlined a number of areas where improvements could be made, such as time limits for traders to provide redress; more point of sale information about consumer rights; an improved ability for consumer protection bodies to order compensation; and the development of class actions where consumer organisations bring cases on behalf of groups of consumers.

Summing up, Mark Mclaren said that enforcement would be key to whether the Bill achieved its aims.