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Consumer laws a brief guide

Written by Ethan Turner on 05 September 2015

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The majority of the Act's provisions are expected to come into force on 1 October 2015

Application

For the most part the Act is very similar to the existing UK laws, although there have been some changes particularly in relation to services and unfair terms.

The Act also introduces significant changes to private actions in competition law; including expanding the jurisdiction of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, the introduction of opt-out collective actions and the establishment of voluntary redress schemes.

The Consumer Rights Act applies to contracts and notices between a 'trader' and a 'consumer'.

A 'consumer' is defined as "an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual's trade, business, craft or profession"

A 'trader' is defined as "a person acting for purposes relating to that person's trade, business, craft or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader's name or on the trader's behalf".

Supply of services

The provisions relating to the supply of services consolidate various pieces of existing legislation and regulation. For financial services firms, the new provisions will apply alongside the various industry-specific regulations which are imposed on businesses, mainly by the Financial Conduct Authority

Unfair terms

The test for 'unfair terms' in the Act is the same as that in the 1977 Unfair Contract Terms Act: it provides that a term is "unfair" if "contrary to the requirements of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer".

Digital content

The Act is the first piece of legislation to regulate the supply of digital content as such. Generally, the supply of digital content is treated in much the same way as the supply of goods in that it must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and conform with the description provided by the trader.

The supply of digital content will be regulated when:

it is supplied for a price or it is supplied free with goods and services which the consumer has paid for, and would not be generally available to consumers otherwise
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