Generational watershed in UK history as new legislation launched to improve consumer rights
New legislation has officially come into full force today which has ensured that British and EU consumers are given a greater level of rights and flexibility with their purchases in news that it is being touted as possibly one of the momentous consumer protection law reforms in a generation.
The Consumer Rights Directive, officially launched today and applicable to every one of the 28 EU member States will enable consumers to have a longer period of time to send back any goods they purchased online, phone or at home via package, in a bid to try and reinforce and clearly specify information and cancellation rights, as well as bring an end to certain hidden cost practices performed by retailers when consumers purchase specific goods or services.
Consumers will now have 2 weeks, rather than one in order to return any purchased goods, whilst they will not be required to fork out on premium rate phone numbers when attempting to get into contact with a retailer via their customer service helpline. Instead, servicers and retail organisations will be required to provide customer service numbers which only charge callers at normal call rates.
The new legislation has been widely praised by consumer groups and politicians alike, who have highlighted that they will go a long way to bringing an end to bad practice within the retail and service industry.
"The Consumer Rights Directive will give people greater protection against rogue traders and strengthen their rights when shopping online," said Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd.
"These changes, coupled with the new consumer bill of rights, will give people more power to challenge bad practice."
In Britain, the new directives have been instigated via the Consumer Contracts Regulation and have displaced the previous Distance Selling Regulations and Doorstep Selling Regulations.
These are distinct and separated from the consumer rights bill- legislation full of other protective components- which is currently passing through parliament.
Other modifications in the new rules include prohibiting servicers from placing ìpre-tickedî boxes on their forms for payment of added services, like travel insurance, when purchasing a holiday, and also on unwarranted and unnecessarily ìadministrativeî debit and credit card surcharges on airplane and music venue bookings. Nevertheless, certain contracts have been exempted from the new rules- most significantly services provided by finance companies, gambling and holidays booked on a package basis.
Consumer minister Jenny Willott said: "What we want to see are empowered, savvy shoppers who know their rights, look around for the best deals and drive competition."
Justin Edgar of London law firm Harbottle & Lewis added: "The regulations herald the beginning of what it is expected to be biggest shake-up of consumer protection laws in a generation. They will put considerable new responsibilities on traders in relation to just about everything in the business to consumer relationship.."