New rights to redress
As of 1 October 2014 new amendments have been made to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations which give you new rights to redress if you've been the victim of misleading actions or aggressive selling.
Read on to find out more about your new rights.
Basic rules consumer protection rules
There are three main sections in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. These are as follows:
- The general ban on unfair commercial practices
- Misleading and aggressive practices which are assessed in light of the effect they have, or are likely to have, on the average consumer
- The Black List which contains the list of those practices which are unfair and thus banned
Companies are not allowed to use misleading or underhand tactics to get you to part with your cash.
Misleading actions include advertising goods that don't exist, or offering just a few items at the advertised price with no hope of meeting large demand.
If a trader has signed up to a code of practice, then if it fails to follow this code, it could be a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
For example, if a garage has signed up to the Motor Industry Code of Practice for Service and Repair, failing to follow it could constitute a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Traders are also banned from lying about goods or passing them off as another product to give them credibility.
For example 'we only fit genuine, branded parts', when in reality they are fitting non-branded parts to your car.
Sometimes it's not what's actually said that's the problem. Sometimes its what's been left out that's the issue.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations offer protection against traders who are economical with the truth, or miss out key information that you might need to make an informed decision.
Traders must make sure the information is provided in a timely manner - and not so late that it's of no use to you.
It's considered misleading if a trader does any of the following:
- omits material information that the average consumer needs, according to the context, to make an informed transactional decision
- hides or provide material information in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner
- fails to identify the commercial intent of the commercial practice if not already apparent from the context
And information must also be displayed clearly - obscure presentation is tantamount to an omission.
Sales tactics can greatly influence a consumer's decision. Traders who fail to take no for an answer, refuse to leave until a contract is signed or use threatening behaviour will be committing an offence.
A practice is considered aggressive if the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct is significantly impaired.
The legislation contains a list of criteria to help determine whether a commercial practice uses harassment, coercion, including physical force, or undue influence.
Undue influence is categorised by something that applies pressure 'even without using or threatening to use physical force, in a way which significantly limits the consumer’s ability to make an informed decision.'
If a trader is accused of misleading consumers or acting aggressively, it's not enough to simply demonstrate the activity.
It also has to be shown that the practice influenced the consumer's decision.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the consumer has to have entered into a contract, just that their actions were influenced in some way.
It could be enough that the consumer phoned the trader or decided to go into their shop.
Unfair or misleading trading practices, aggressive selling and misleading omissions are all covered by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
As of 1st October 2014 amendments have been made to these regulations which give consumers new rights to redress if you've been the victim of misleading actions or aggressive selling.
In addition to tackling misleading and aggressive behaviour, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations outlaw 31 specific practices such as claiming something is free when it's not and persistent cold-calling.
With these 31 practices it's enough simply to demonstrate wrongdoing, and there is no need to show that it influenced the consumer's decision in any way.
The banned practices under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations are to ensure that traders, marketing professionals and customers are clear about what is prohibited and help provide consumer protection.
The list of banned practices include the following:
- Bait advertising Luring the consumer with attractive advertising around special prices when the trader knows that he cannot offer that product, or only has a few in stock at that price.
- Bait and switch Promoting one product with the intention of selling you something else
- Limited offers Falsely stating that a product will only be available for a very limited time, or that it will only be available on particular terms for a very limited time, in order to elicit an immediate decision and deprive consumers of sufficient opportunity or time to make an informed choice.
- False free offers Describing a product as free or without charge if the consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding to the offer and collecting or paying for delivery of the item.
- Pressure selling Creating the impression that the consumer cannot leave the premises until a contract is formed.
- Aggressive doorstep selling Conducting personal visits to the consumer's home ignoring the consumer's request to leave or not to return.
Cross border trading
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations also aim to clarify consumers’ rights and simplify the process of cross-border trade.
The regulations give you the same protection against unfair practices and rogue traders whether you're buying from your corner shop or purchasing from a website based in Spain.
This also means that businesses can advertise and market to all 480 million consumers in the EU, in the same way they do to domestic customers.
The principle aim is to boost consumer confidence and give businesses a uniform and transparent EU wide set of rules.
New right to redress
As of 1st October 2014 new amendments have been made to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations which give you new rights to redress - specifically if you've been the victim of a misleading action - for example a false statement - or aggressive selling.
These break down into three key areas:
A right to undo the contract You will be able to end the contract as long as you haven't fully consumed goods or digital products, or received a service in full.
To get a refund you will also have to exercise your right to unwind the contract not more than 90 days from when you received the goods or the service started.
This is on the provision that any goods supplied to you are made available for collection by the trader.
It's important to note that if you took out finance to pay for a contract that was made as a result of misleading or aggressive selling, you can get out of the contract and recoup anything that you have paid.
A right to a discount on the price paid You will be able to seek a discount in respect of past or future payments due under a contract.
The new regulations entitle you to a 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% discount on the payments depending on whether the trader's breach is considered to be minor, significant, serious or very serious.
The level of seriousness of the trader's actions will depend on their behaviour, the impact this has had on you and how long it has been since you signed the contract.
An entitlement to seek damages If you incur a financial loss that you wouldn't have done if it weren't for the trader's actions, you will be able to make a claim for damages.
A claim can also be made if you have suffered alarm, distress or physical inconvenience or discomfort as a result of the trader's actions.
Be aware that these regulations give the trader a defence to a claim for damages in certain circumstance, for example if they can demonstrate that their actions were accidental, due to a mistake or factors outside their control.Important factors to note:
You must have entered into a contract For these new rights to redress to apply, you must have entered into a contract.
This is different from the rest of the regulations where it is enough to show you took some other kind of transactional decision, like going into a shop because of a misleading ad in the window.
Misleading action must be a significant factor If you entered into a contract as a result of a misleading action or aggressive selling, you will need to show that this was at least a significant factor in your decision to enter into the contract.
Misleading omissions are not covered These new rights to redress do not apply to misleading omissions.