The Consumer Rights Act 2015 represents a significant development in the regulation of consumer contracts under UK law. It consolidates and brings consistency to rules that were previously spread across a wide range of different Acts and Regulations. It also introduces new rules, particularly in relation to digital content, remedies available to consumers and unfair contract terms.
The Act comes into force on 1 October 2015 and will apply to contracts entered into after that date. In this article we consider the most important changes to existing consumer law of which consumer businesses need to be aware.
Consumers have, for many years, enjoyed a high and increasing level of statutory protection under UK law. These protections include the imposition of implied terms into contracts for the supply of goods and services, enhanced remedies in the event of breach of contract and protection from unfair contract terms. However, because of the piecemeal way in which the law has developed, these protections are spread across numerous different Acts and Regulations.
The primary aim of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“CRA”) is to consolidate the existing rules in order to provide clarity to both consumers and businesses. However, the drafters have also taken the opportunity to update existing rules, not least in order to keep pace with the changing way in which goods and services are bought. In particular, the Act:
- Extends consumer protection to cover the supply of digital content
- Consolidates and updates the remedies available to consumers who receive defective goods and services
- Strengthens the existing law on the effect of unfair terms in consumer contracts and extends this regime to cover notices (i.e. oral or written announcements/communications to the consumer in relation to the contract) as well as contract terms
The Act also makes a number of important changes to the UK competition regime. These changes (which are outside the scope of this article) are intended to give private parties, in particular small and medium sized businesses and consumers, the necessary tools to enforce competition law through private class actions on an “opt out” basis and to provide effective redress for loss caused by anti-competitive behaviour. These elements of the Act were covered in detail in a recent article produced by our Competition team.
To read more about the key changes that every consumer business should be aware of, please click here.