I have been asked a lot what EU law affects consumer law and what would happen to consumer law should we leave the EU on Thursday. Well, in answer to the second question no-one really knows, just like no-one really knows what will happen to anything. For the former, “Experts” believe that it will take anything from 2 – 10 years to unravel laws.
We accept European Law here because there is an Act of Parliament (European Communities Act 1972) that sets out that we will abide by European Law and give it precedence.
EU legislation is intended to give consumers across the EU equivalent rights. Each member state will use its own piece of law to implement an EU law, regulation or directive as appropriate. So buy a product from France, French law applies giving the same basic rights as UK law although there may be some differences. See the UK European Consumer Centre for more details.
Regulations. These passed by the European Commission and become law immediately across all member states. So that means each country is immediately bound by it, i.e. it has the same effect as an Act of Parliament.
Directives: These are different to Regulations because they aren’t domestic law immediately. They offer a framework with which each member state must use in order to implement domestic law by a certain date – so as to give effect to the purpose of the Directive. So with these the EC introduce a Directive and each member state could apply it slightly differently when turning it in to law.
So what do we have consumer law related and what is likely to happen to them?
The UK implemented the:
- Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012,
- Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations.
The CRR 2012 limits charges in relation to the payment methods used when buying goods and services. Surcharge must not be more than it costs the business to process that method of payment. The price of a product, whether goods, services or digital content, must be quoted inclusive of any non-optional surcharges.
The CCR 2013 is about ensuring that the consumer is given certain information at the point of sale such as ensuring that there are no hidden charges, understand what goods and services are being provided, receive the information in a “durable medium”. The Doorstop Selling Regulations 2008 gave you 7 days cooling off period but this was repealed when the CCR 2013 came into force.
The CPUT Regulations were slightly updated to include “misleading and aggressive tactics”. We already had The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which were implemented under the EU Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair commercial practices in the internal market and were updated in 2014. Much is also covered by The Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Consumer Credit Act 1974
In January 2013 changes were made to this Act following an EU Directive on Additional Assumptions for the Calculation of the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge on Credit Agreements (EC Directive 2011/90/EU0)
The Consumer Protection Act 1987
From an EU Directive this prohibits the manufacture and supply of unsafe goods making the manufacturer or seller of a defective product responsible for any damage it causes. Think tumble dryer fires. The Act also allows local councils to seize unsafe goods and suspend the sale of suspected unsafe goods and prohibits misleading price indications. The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (not as part of an EU directive) broadened requirements on safety requirements.
EU Directive 1999/44/EC
People think this is good cause when you buy goods in a shop or online you have the right to a minimum two year guarantee period at no cost. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 actually gives you more rights.
The costs were capped in July 2014 and again from 30th April 2016 (excluding VAT for calls, texts and downloading data).
• Roaming data dropped from around 15p per mb to up to 4p plus the domestic price.
• Outgoing calls dropped from around 15p per minute to up to 4p plus the domestic price
• Incoming calls from around 4p per minute to up to 1p plus the domestic price
• Outgoing texts from around 5p per text to up to 2p plus domestic price
• On 15 June 2017 there will be no extra roaming fee within the EU – it will be the same as domestic price
What might happen to these laws if we leave the EU?
Consumer law has improved over the last couple of decades. These have been put in place due to EU Directives but also improving existing laws not due to the EU. It is very unlikely that the Government would repeal any of these laws as 1) It would be very complicated and time/money expensive to unravel and 2) The Acts are improvements for consumers so there would be no reason to undo them and to choose to do so would cause some uproar!
What of any new Directives?
I don’t think it will make the slightest bit of difference to consumer law whether in or out of the EU! May see companies opt out of the roaming charges cap though!