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Consumer Contracts Regulation

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 4 July 2019

Today, I am publishing the statutory report on the Objectives of Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellations and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. This report sets out the conclusions of the review of these regulations.

A key foundation of our modern industrial strategy is delivering a strong, transparent and attractive business environment in the UK. The strength of the UK’s business environment is founded on our fair and open regulatory frameworks. For our regulatory frameworks to remain fair and open, they must meet the ever-changing needs of the modern consumer, the modern business and the modern world.

There is often an imbalance of power between businesses and consumers; these regulations were intended to empower consumers and create a fairer balance between the two. This was to be achieved by increasing transparency surrounding contracts they are entering into and give them the time to understand the product and consider its price before deciding to enter the contract, building consumer confidence and willingness to trade remotely in the process.

The regulations also implement the EU consumer rights directive, an obligation we are committed to meeting under the single market. But the UK has a strong history of protecting consumer rights, which is achieved not by the creation of new legislation and its enforcement but always seeking to understand whether, and how well, we achieve our underlying objectives. This report will set out objectives intended to be achieved by the regulations, assess the extent to which those objectives have been achieved, assess whether those objectives remain appropriate, and, if so, the extent to which they could be achieved in a way that imposes less regulation.

As part of the review, we made the call for evidence, which ran from 7 March to 1 May 2019. We are acutely aware of some of the issues highlighted by the response, such as the challenge of consistent enforcement. The Government’s consumer White Paper will set out our proposals for the next phase of action to strengthen the consumer regime and will be the vehicle through which the Government consider this, and a range of other issues not addressed within this report. The Government’s consumer White Paper is due to be published later this year.

Overall, it was the expressed view that the regulations continue to meet the objectives for which they were established and that these remain appropriate five years on from them coming into force. Following comments we will, however, be reviewing the existing guidance to ensure that it is sufficiently clear to support the regulations.

I will be placing a copy of the statutory report on the Objectives of Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellations and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 in the Libraries of both Houses.