New protection for consumers

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has published its White Paper, “A Better Deal for Consumers”, which sets out the government’s strategy for regulating consumer markets.

The government has reviewed its strategy because of the current economic situation and to deal with the changes in the ways in which consumers buy, and traders sell, goods and services. The White Paper focuses on four main themes:

– Help for vulnerable consumers in financial difficulties.
– A new approach to consumer credit.
– Empowering consumers through better enforcement and information.
– Modernising consumer law.

This update covers the last two of these main themes.

The White Paper applies to the whole of the UK, but there will be differences in implementation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where policy is devolved to those administrations.

Studies will focus on encouraging voluntary compensation offers by traders when breaches of consumer law are discovered.   In addition, pilot schemes will test to what extent powers similar to those in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 can be applied inthe area of consumer protection.

A new “Consumer Advocate” will coordinate efforts to educate and inform consumers, and there will be new powers to deal with rogue traders, including banning orders.  There will also be a new focus on educating consumers on how to deal with new ways of trading.  Updates will ensure

– Consumer rights are clear in law

– are simple to understand

– are based on core principles of consumer protection

– suit the modern marketplace

– are widely accessible.

A new Bill will be introduced to implement the proposed new EU Consumer Rights directive.

This new approach reflects the rapid changes in the way in which conumers buy products and services and and should help to simplify consumer protection law and improve information for consumers.