Skip to main content

Consumer Rights

Volume 632: debated on Monday 4 December 2017

The petition of residents of Linlithgow and East Falkirk,

Declares that the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 does not do enough to protect consumers against rogue traders who do not comply with the terms of the Act; further that the change to the Act in 2015, which gives consumers the right to reject goods within 30 days, which are not as described or faulty, is unenforceable; and further that currently, consumers cannot take any action against companies who do not participate in the Consumer Ombudsman scheme, and this leaves the consumer with the laborious task, if the company will not co-operate, of having to take a small claims action in court.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review the Consumer Rights Act (2015) to ensure better protection for consumers; further asks the Government to review the terms of the Act, to make membership of a professional body for traders compulsory; and further that this action would allow consumers the ability to pursue a complaint with the Consumer Ombudsman.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martyn Day, Official Report, 11 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 411.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Margot James):

The Government determine the environment within which markets operate so as to drive effective competition. This includes the rules which govern consumer rights and how to enforce them; and the rules with which business must comply in order to sell to consumers. This framework ensures consumer confidence in markets and reassures businesses that they are competing on a level playing field.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) sets out a framework that consolidates in one place key consumer rights covering contracts for goods, services, digital content and the law relating to unfair terms in consumer contracts. In addition, the Act introduces easier routes for consumers and small and medium sized enterprises (“SMEs”) to challenge anti-competitive behaviour through the Competition Appeals Tribunal (“CAT”). The CRA also consolidates enforcers’ powers to investigate potential breaches of consumer law and clarifies that certain enforcers (Trading Standards) can operate across local authority boundaries. It gives the civil courts and public enforcers greater flexibility to take the most appropriate action for consumers when dealing with breaches or potential breaches of consumer law.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a well-established process that enables disputes between a consumer and business to be settled via an independent and impartial body without recourse to the court system. In many sectors, if a consumer has a complaint and is not satisfied with the company’s response to it, they can go to an ombudsman or other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider. ADR gives consumers and businesses a quicker, cheaper way to resolve disputes than going to court. This can empower consumers and business alike, raising standards and giving confidence to both sides that problems can be dealt with quickly, effectively and amicably.

Consumers have a right to take a dispute to ADR in the finance, energy, telecoms, estate agents and legal services sectors. In other sectors, there is no mandatory requirement to use ADR although it is available for any dispute should the business decide they want to use it.

It is important that consumer protections are kept under regular review and the Government will issue a Consumer Green Paper that will closely examine markets especially those which are not working fairly for consumers, Respondents to the green paper will be able to present evidence regarding the effectiveness of consumer redress mechanisms including the role of ombudsmen and ADR provision.