Brexit and EU consumer law
As of today Brexit is still a mess! No final decisions have been made about anything.
The future of EU consumer law in the UK
EU law continues to apply until the UK leaves the EU. When the UK does leave, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 comes into force which is the repealing of the European Communities Act 1972. It allows for the Parliamentary approval of the withdrawal agreement being negotiated between the Government and the European Union.
The UK will retain existing EU law. The laws made over the last 40 years whilst the UK was an EU member will remain in place, unless the Government decides to change any of them.
Many of the EU directives regarding consumer rights are actually enshrined in UK law. So, most will remain the same unless/until they are updated, repealed or changed by Parliament.
Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012
The Government has said that in the case of a no-deal Brexit the cost of credit and debit card payments for transactions between the UK and EU are likely to increase.
If there is a no-deal Brexit, EU traders selling these arrangements in or to consumers in the UK will be required to comply with the insolvency protection requirements, as above, so you will still be financially protected if the company goes bust.
If the organiser is not based in the UK, or does not direct its business to the UK, this may not be the case. Request very clear information regarding insolvency protection before booking. You won’t be covered by these regulations but you may be covered by insolvency protection arrangements in the EU member state.
Consumer laws covering purchases in the EU
If there is a no-deal Brexit consumers will not be able to use the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform provided by the European Commission. You may not be able to use the UK-based alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organisations for cross border disputes as they will no longer be required to act in cross-border disputes.
If there is a no-deal Brexit you will still be able to return items purchased from an EU retailer. You will still be buying items under the law in the seller’s country. However, it may be more difficult to return items and you may have to go that country if you want to take the matter to court.
If you incur problems after the exit date this will also apply.
If there is a deal there should be no change.
Consumer safety and the EU
If there is a no-deal Brexit the UK will instantly stop being part of the EU agencies and regulatory bodies that are responsible for undertaking safety assessments, such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Therefore UK bodies would have to take on this responsibility to ensure consumer safety. UK consumers will still be able to monitor EU consumer product recalls via the Rapid Exchange of Information System (RAPEX) website. Alerts issued by RAPEX provide information about dangerous products and steps being taken to prevent or restrict marketing.
If there is a no-deal Brexit there could well be disruption to flights around the time the UK actually leaves the EU. This is because the UK would not be part of the European Common Aviation Area and bilateral agreements need to be made.
At the point of writing it is not clear if a flight disruption would be considered as an “extraordinary” circumstance for the purposes of EU 261. I suspect it will be a matter to be fought in court. You should still get a refund but you may not get the compensation, consequential losses or admin fees. Check with your travel insurer as to whether your flight would be covered by Brexit issues.
If you have missed a connecting train due to the cancellation or delay, you can claim a refund for the unused part of the journey should you not go on a later train or have to use an alternative form of transport. You could consider claiming for consequential losses, as above.
If there is a deal the Government has said that free roaming will remain guaranteed for the implementation period. (This should apply until the end of December 2020 at least. This may be extended until December 2022 for a variety of reasons, but both sides need to agree). Future arrangements after this date will depend on the details of the deal.
If there is a no-deal Brexit, at the point of going to print the Government has proposed a statutory instrument to prepare for changes to mobile roaming arrangements. If it is approved, it will remove the obligation for mobile providers to offer free roaming in the EU. The proposed new law retains the current global data cap on mobile roaming of £45 per monthly billing period and would also legislate to ensure the current alerts issued at 80% and 100% data usage continue.