UK consumer law set for massive changeMinisters want to streamline current rules

08 May 2008

Scales of justice

The government says it wants to fundamentally overhaul UK consumer law to make it simpler for business and consumers.

Under plans announced today, ministers will consider replacing the 100-plus consumer laws with more flexible general rules.

The government also wants to look at bringing together several core consumer rights into a single new law.

UK business secretary John Hutton now wants business and consumer groups to come forward with evidence to inform consumer law review.

Consumer survey

There will also be a major consumer survey which will look in depth at various issues, including the problems consumers currently face.

John Hutton said: ‘Developed over decades and comprising more than 100 different pieces of legislation, the UK's current system offers high standards of protection for consumers.

‘But its complexity makes it hard to understand, and costs business an estimated £1.25bn every year.'

Streamline

He added:‘For example, we currently have specific rules for filling up coal bunkers and selling bird seed, imitation baby dummies and clothes with hood cords.

‘It is clear that we must act to streamline these myriad rules to help consumers know and exercise their rights, cut red tape and target enforcement to weed out rogue traders.’

Louise Hanson, head of campaigns at Which?, was at the conference where the government announced the shake-up.

She said:'Consumers must be at the heart of any changes to the law and we’ll be working to make sure that happens. The review should be speedy, engage consumers and ensure markets are competitive and that people’s rights are made clear.

'Simplifying the laws mustn’t be allowed undermine consumer protection so it was a relief to hear John Hutton say this wasn’t an opportunity to lower standards.'