What will happen to consumer rights after Brexit?

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 So, most will remain the same unless/until they are updated, repealed or changed by Parliament.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.

credit card, phone car and aeroplane

Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018

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.

Flights

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.

Roaming charges

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.

‘Serial returners’ hit by new ASOS policy

Online retailer tackles perceived abuse by online customers

ASOS changes in terms and conditions

ASOS has changed its returns policy. In a move that some might consider to be customer unfriendly, it has made significant changes to its returns policy. It hits out at serial returners and customers who wear something once and then return it

ASOS emailed all its customers regarding the new terms and conditions.

“If we notice an unusual pattern of returns activity that doesn’t sit right: e.g. we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning loads – way, waaay more than even the most loyal ASOS customer would order – then we might have to deactivate the account and any associated accounts.”

In addition to cracking down on serial returners, Asos’ new returns policy will allow shoppers to return unwanted purchases up to 45 days from point of purchase rather than 28.

The first paragraph is the softener, extending the returns time. There isn’t a need to do this. Under the under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 you have a 14 day cooling-off period during which you can change your mind. You have up to 14 days to inform the retailer and 14 days from then to send back the item.  There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. And in any case, if people are going to return an item what difference does an extra couple of weeks make to nearly a month/

However, the second part is contentious. ASOS says that if it suspects a customer of wearing an item once and then returning it, it may ban the customer from ordering from its site. Or if a customer orders a high number of clothes and returns them too frequently they may also get banned.

From the shopper’s point of view

People buy from the Internet for a number of reasons including, for example

  • Inability to get to shops due to disability, lack of transport, lack of suitable local shops, etc.
  • Convenience
  • Choice
  • Price

There are no changing rooms on the Internet, so it isn’t surprising that people buy more items to see what fits. A couple of years ago, when wanting to find a dress for a special event, I ordered about 50 dresses! I rarely wear dresses, am all out of proportion and the thought of traipsing round shops and trying stuff on filled me with dread. So I took to the Internet and then tried on one dress after another. All but one went back.

Years and years ago we had catalogues, remember? Littlewoods, Freemans etc. We ordered from them and either paid it all off in one go or paid monthly. But all the items cost more than they did in the shops, even if you paid it all off in one go. The cost of people returning items for free was clearly factored into the cost. Big firms like ASOS should be able to cope with this, surely?

As Keshia East, beauty blogger says (see video below) “With social media, young people are buying things wearing them and returning them because they want fast fashion. It’s the culture now and firms like ASOS  feed into that”.

How should a business deal with this?

Wearing an item once and sending it back is fraud, that’s clear. Customers have been known to take their items that have been worn once to the dry cleaners, so they can be returned! Any move to stop people doing this is a good one. It is no different to someone doing the same in store, it’s theft for x number of days.

However, remember the stores on the High Street which have more overheads than online retailers, lose money through shoplifting and paying for security. Perhaps online retailers would do well to remember this/ If bricks and mortar retailers have to allow for theft and plan it into their forecast then online retailers should also. Their costs are already lower than those of the High Street so should they not bear some costs too. Ordering a lot of items for choice and comparison should just be expected and again planned into a company’s online strategy, as part of normal online shopping behaviour.

Perhaps the email is just to warn consumers and put some off wearing an item once?

When a customer changes their mind and has the right to return, the return postage does not have to be paid by the customer. So, perhaps companies should consider abolishing the free returns option? This would have to be weighed against the potential lost custom compared with the possible amount saved. It could be, of course, that if someone thinks it is OK to wear something once and return it they won’t think anything of damaging the item before returning it. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 they can return the item for free.

ASOS changes in ts and cs will the measures work on woman in black top

Other issues with returns

Consumers need to be educated about fast fashion and the damage that it does to the environment. This may help reduce the amount of ordering and change people’s attitudes to always having to buy new. At the same time we need to pester companies to do more with returned items and not send them to landfill. It is a very mixed and unknown quantity of what goes to landfill. What is recycled, what is resold and what goes to landfill?

This is really hitting small businesses. I hear frequent reports of how this practice is killing them. A number of small businesses have said to me how they sell items that can’t be resold but have returned. Smaller businesses and sole traders can’t carry the extra cost.

Emma Drew blogs at Emma Drew and used to sell one eBay too says “Customers abusing our returns policy was part of the reason we decided to close down our eBay business. The majority of our stock was clothing or other fashion items and we found ourselves being used as a ‘rental service’. Each return would cost us about £6.30 to cover postage to the buyer and postage back. As a small business we could no longer absorb this cost and increasing our prices to account for this cost would put buyers off. We now no longer trade on eBay.”

Your rights

Your rights when shopping online

Will this new measure work?

It’s interesting because I think it is just scaremongering. Social media was rife with suggestions that ASOS would look at social media and people’s accounts and look for pictures where people have taken photos of themselves, tagged ASOS and then returned the items. Ridiculous. If ASOS had the resources to look at that they would be far more than the loss they may be currently making from people returning items.

I doubt it will make any difference at all. Why should it? How will ASOS prove anything and would it risk the possible backfire if it got a customer’s details wrong?!

Other retailers may watch with interest, but the more innovative companies may look at comparing costs of returns against any backlash from getting things wrong and looking at ways to stop people being able to wear something once and return it in t

 

ASOS change in returns policy

Help and advice on effective complaining

Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively the importance of writing not phoning when complaining

For more help on complaining effectively see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

 

For masses of information, tips, guidance, laws and regulations and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!