back to article Gov report urges total consumer contract law overhaul

A Government report has recommended a complete overhaul of consumer law which would bring together the disparate laws that currently govern the sale of goods and services to consumers. Pointing out that three laws currently govern consumer sales contracts, the report recommends creating a single law as well as ensuring that it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One set of rules to rule them all

    "Our approach has been to simplify the rules both in content and concept and at the same time include as many of the rules in the law as possible".

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm A Bit worried ..

    That the business leaning Conservatives and their partner will use this as an excuse to take away some of our protections.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Lawyers, solicitors

    If all the laws made where written clearly and where not so bloody vague, then there would be no need for these parasites.

    Besides most big companies like Amazon just ignore the law, until you get the trading standards on their backs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Big Companies?

      Big companies? I think you're barking up the wrong tree there. IME it's the small companies that think contract law does not apply to them.

      1. thecakeis(not)alie

        And in /my/ experience... company thinks the laws apply to them. Corporatists, corporations and politicians all believe they are immune. Personally and professionally, the greedier and more self-focused an individual is the more likely they are to believe that laws are things "other people" have to follow. The reasoning usually goes something like "because of [X] I am entitled to [large amount of hocus.] Because I am entitled to [large amount of hocus] then other people need to be bound by these laws that don’t apply to me.”

        Alternately: “I am smarter/more capable/genetically gifted/possessed of [quality] that is above average. Thanks to this, rules that should apply to the masses shouldn’t apply to me.” Now the way our society is structured, we keep selecting these people to run our corporations. We select these people to run our governments. We keep rewarding selfishness, greed and a complete disregard for the welfare of other people.

        Shocking then that there’s “no laws for them, a large number for us.”

        Steal hundreds of billions of dollars and send the worldwide economy into a freefall? Slap on the wrist and some time in a cushy country club “prison.” Infringe copyright on a couple dozen songs for personal consumption and the /judge/ makes jokes about “not dropping the soap.”

        I really don’t think it has anything to do with the size of the company involved. I think there is probably a equal amount of selfishness and corruption amongst the brass in corporations of all sizes.

  4. Ku...

    makes sense but...

    ...why does it make me nervous as well...?

  5. JaitcH

    Good Consumer Law is good for economy

    There are plenty of Common Law consumer legislation so it shouldn't take long to plagiarise a decent new law.

    The fact that EU proposals don't provide for "did not contain provisions forcing EU member states to pass laws allowing consumers to have the same right to reject goods that UK consumers have." or "it says that once a good is "accepted", the right to remedies is lost" suggests the EU law drafters were knobbled by the Dodgy Dealer Sales Association.

    People only discover defects AFTER they have accepted delivery and have had a chance to use it.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Anyone would think they're trying to prop up bricks and mortar

      There was another EU directive not too long ago that gave companies the right to refuse to have their products sold by a shop if it didn't have an off-line presence.

  6. Mike 140

    The death of satire

    A 222-page report that recommends a simplification.

  7. TimNevins
    Thumb Down

    What are the chances

    That this is used to remove wholesale protection inherited from the previous SOGAs. It's an opportunity for Big Business to step in and reduce protection from years gone by.

    So long Consumer Rights. We hardly knew ya.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fully agree.

      Test 1. Is the Consumer law broken? No? Don't fix it.Yes. RCA what the problem is and fix the problem.

      This seems to be to me a 'Make work' exercise. An opportunity for interested parties to join committees and, at Taxpayer expense, solve what appears (to me) to be a non-problem.

      Yes, harmonisation might be nice, and might result in clearer wording for consumers but, in the main, we wouldn't understand it anyway. Fortunately, Lawyers do. So do trading standards.

      Test 2. Will any changes now improve efficient market operation for UK companies operating in Europe to a sufficient extent that the costs saved outweigh the costs incurred? If not then don't do it. If so, what is the minimum/optimum that needs to be done. Any more and all you will do is make UK companies less efficient for no better purpose than making the BIS mandarins happy and employed.

  8. 2FishInATank

    Who'll give me odds?

    What do you reckon the likelihood is that if they are re-written that somehow consumers will end up with less protection than they currently have?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But wait, there's more!

    No doubt they won't pass up on the opportunity to relive us all of a few of those onerous "rights" that get in the way of business making a larger, even less scrupulous killing.

  10. Red Bren
    Jobs Horns

    Who is the contract between?

    One of the biggest issues with consumer protection is that it only covers the relationship between the vendor and the customer. If you have a problem with the item you bought, you take it back to the shop. This model is increasingly out of step with the reality of owning electronic devices that receive updates from the original manufacturer. Should the manufacturer decide to remove a feature

    The most obvious case is the Other OS functionality of the original Sony PS3. 3 years after I bought the console, partly because it had this feature, Sony decide to remove it and I have no legal redress. A similar situation exists with smartphones, where firmware updates can be used to disable functionality the manufacturer doesn't approve of or wants to monetize for themselves.

    Consumer law needs to be extended to include the manufacturer and prevent this after-sales removal of original functionality.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Busy, busy

    If being "written in simplified terms that laypeople can understand" makes it as ambiguous and resistant to interpretation as most 'Plain English' forms, expect to see plenty of extra work for lawyers.

  12. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    It needs to be clearer that's for damn sure!

    I once had a 2 hour argument on the phone with a well known high-street furniture shop when they tried to tell me that if refused to take a faulty item, they would have to charge me a re-stock fee, when I pointed out that it never said that on the original sales contract that I signed, the store manager tried to tell me that statements on "fees liable" does not have to be on the customer contract! Like f**k!!

    When I finally demanded to speak to the customer services at their HQ I was told that in some cases that was true ( I was about to start phoning around for a solicitor ) but in my case they would make an exception! Oh whoopie!

    Balls! If it says XYZ on the contract we are both bound by XYZ on the contract. If it references other rules and regs, they must be printed on the contract too, that much I do know. These shops think they can frighten weak consumers into coughing up more money.

    Fight for your consumer rights every step of the way, you have a lot more power than you realise under UK law.

  13. Just Thinking

    A chance to redress the balance

    Not that it will ever happen but how about proper rights for consumers?

    If I buy an item and it is faulty, I should just get my money back. Why should the shop have the right to keep my money, keep me waiting for weeks, then give me the repaired faulty item. What I actually wanted was a brand new, working item, and if the shop screw that up I'd like my money back to go and buy it somewhere else.

    Proper waranties. Why are shops allowed to sell expensive items with ridiculously short guarantee periods which do not reflect in any way the lifetime a customer might reasonably expect?

    Statutory compensation for returning faulty goods. Why should I give my time and petrol for free to help a shop replace someting faulty they sold to me?

    Many items are faulty by design, and currently a shop can just keep replacing the faulty item until the warranty runs out. I once bought a pair of glasses with very thin frames - they were relatively expensive so I assumed they would be strong enough. Broke and got replaced several times, then my 12 months was up. Not exactly what I had paid for, glasses usually last me years.

    Currently things are stacked heavily against the consumer in these situations.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There is the business of an "unfair contract" whereby it doesn't matter what you signed, if it is seen to be flawed in law then the contract is void. I had an employment contract (from a major blue chip employer I will add) which forebad me to be a member of a political party, to donate any part of my wages to a political party, to campaign on behalf of a political party or to support in any way anyone who did so. Next clause was the same with the words "trade union" in place of political party. As this is illegal the whole contract became unenforceable. What a big silly mess.So just because its on paper and signed and such doesn't mean it will stand up.

    Next up was a company I signed a contract with who had a clause in the small print which stated that they reserved the right to add additional fees, terms, conditions and so forth to the contract I had signed and that my agreement to this was not necessary. The fact that I had signed the contract meant I agreed to their right to amend it. This is apparently common clause in a lot of contracts. I'm amazed its legal but they then retrospectively imposed useage limits which they didn't tell us abotu for 18 months, by which time we had run up more than £100K in fees.

    MY copy of the signed contract had a schedule and NO limits on it. They had a later version. We spent a fortune on solicitors and still ended up in a negotiated settlement as we were advised we could not win the case in court.

    So I would say practice like that needs looking at.

  15. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    As above

    Problems with products are increasingly being palmed off back to the manufacturer leaving the consumer in a wasteland. For example. I purchased some memory only to find upon receipt that 1 stick os ram was faulty. I told the retailer and they had me RMA it with the manufacturer entailing me posting to a different address in another country. OK the retailer paid back the postage but I am still left for a LONG period for replacement memory. If the retailer had just taken the memory back and replaced it (even if that entailed them testing it themselves) things would have gone a lot quicker I am sure. Plus it would have cost the company less in postage costs no doubt.

    1. Lennart Sorensen


      Every computer dealer I have ever dealt with will replace items for the first 14 days themselves and deal with the manufacturer. Sometimes it is 30 days. Apparently you are dealing with a crappy dealer.

  16. Russell Long
    Dead Vulture

    So it's EU law harmonisation then?

    That is what it appears to be.

    Here's the EU "proposal" on a Directive for Consumer Rights.

    All part of our glorious, voluntary absorbtion in to the Great Socialist State of Europe.

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