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Petitions

Volume 632: debated on Monday 4 December 2017

Petitions

Monday 4 December 2017

OBSERVATIONS

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Consumer Rights

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.]

[P002063]

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.

Home Department

System of obtaining Permanent Residence Certification

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the current system of PR discriminates against many groups of EU/EEA residents and their non-EEA spouses/ civil partners; further that this reform will facilitate EU/EAA nationals to obtain Permanent Resident Certification/Card (PR), currently mandatory to become UK citizens (for those who wish to do so).

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that British spouses/civil partners to be considered as sponsors or their EU/EEA spouses/civil partners in PR applications; further to scrap Comprehensive Sickness Insurance as PR requirement for EU/EEA students, homemakers, carers, retired and disabled people or applicants self-sufficient through other income, including their non-EEA spouses/civil partners; EU/EEA nationals, their spouses/civil partners, their children, who have exercised treaty rights for less than five years, to complete their journey to PR; further that parents/carers of British citizens to obtain PR automatically; further that spouses/civil partners of UK service men/women to acquire PR without proof of residency; further that PR to be protected under UK law; further that type of residency evidence, currently accepted for PR/ILR, to be accepted for UK citizenship; further that leaders are urged to act now to reform the system of obtaining Permanent Residence Certification/Card (PR).

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tommy Sheppard, Official Report, 12 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 811 .]

[P002051]

Observations from the Minister for Immigration (Brandon Lewis):

The right of ‘permanent residence’, and the requirements that need to be met to acquire it, originate from Directive 2004/38/EC (‘the Free Movement Directive’). EU citizens are not required to apply to the Home Office for documentation confirming their status or their right to be here, although it remains open for them to do so if they wish.

EU citizens automatically acquire ‘permanent residence’ status if they have lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years in accordance with the Directive—for example, by exercising Treaty rights as a worker, self-employed person, student, or self-sufficient person or by residing as the family member of an EU national exercising Treaty rights. ‘Permanent residence’ status is linked to the UK’s membership of the EU and will no longer be valid after the UK leaves.

The current Free Movement Directive requires those who wish to rely on periods of residence as a student or self-sufficient person in order to acquire ‘permanent residence’ to have held comprehensive sickness insurance for the relevant qualifying periods. This is because the Directive requires that self-sufficient people and students are not a burden on the social assistance system of the host member state.

The Government have set out in their policy document, published on 26 June and available at: https://www.gov. uk/ government/publications/safeguarding-the-position- of-eu-citizens-in-the-uk-and-uk-nationals-in-the-eu, its intention to create new rights in UK law for qualifying EU citizens resident here before our exit. Those rights will be enforceable through the UK legal system and will provide legal guarantees for these EU citizens and their family members. To qualify, the EU citizen must have been lawfully resident in the UK before a specified date and must have completed a period of five years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply for settled status, at which point they must still be resident. Those who are resident on the specified date, but do not qualify for settled status before we leave the EU will be able to stay after exit and to accrue the five years’ residence needed for settled status.

Under the new scheme, we will not require anyone to demonstrate they have held comprehensive sickness insurance. We intend to create a new application process for UK settled status, which will be as simple and user-friendly as possible. On citizens’ rights we want to reach agreement as soon as we can, providing certainty for citizens. We will set out further details in due course.