Term Paper, 2010
12 Pages, Grade: A
A BETTER DEAL FOR CONSUMERS (2009 WHITE PAPER)
CONSUMER BILL OF RIGHTS
BENEFITS OF REGULATING NON-SALE CONTRACTS
PROBLEMS IN DRAFTING SUCH LEGISLATION
As a member state of the European Union, the United Kingdom is bound by the consumer protection directives of the EU and is required to implement them into domestic law. With the influence of EU law, domestic laws regarding consumers have expanded from their origination within the laws of contract and tort, into an independent area of law. This area of law is constantly developing and growing and has, most recently, led up to the proposal of a Consumer Rights Bill, which would cover all types of contracts under which goods are supplied. Although such a Bill would be quite beneficial, its drafting requires a number of obstacles to be overcome. This paper is aimed at outlining both the benefits and problems in drafting such legislation, only after a brief, but concise, summary of the events leading up to the proposal.
In October 2008, following the “Review of the Consumer Acquis”, a proposal for a Consumer Rights Directive was published by the European Commission. The Directive intended to merge four existing consumer directives on consumer contractual rights into one set of rules. At the same time, both businesses and consumers across the EU would be subject to the same rules, as would be laid down through the application of a ‘maximum harmonisation clause’. This would prevent a Member State from maintaining or adopting provisions which provided protection different from those set out in the Directive.
According to Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, “These new rules are designed to strengthen protection and close the loopholes in key areas that are undermining consumer trust. The Single Market has the potential to deliver a lot more choice and opportunities for consumers. But for that we need an EU-wide safety net of rights so consumers have the security they need to shop around with peace of mind.”
Even domestically, consumer rights were in need of reform in our changing world. Kevin Brennan MP, summarised that, “Consumers have been seriously affected by the turmoil in the financial markets, as well as by the longer term changes in the way that goods and services are bought and sold.”
As a result, in March 2009, the Prime Minister announced the White Paper, entitled ‘ A Better Deal for Consumers: Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future’, which was subsequently published on July 2, 2009 by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills. According to Lord Mandelson and Kevin Brennan MP, it “responds to a dual challenge, providing both real help now to those in financial difficulty, and also building a consumer policy that will work in years to come.” In other words, the White Paper commits to resolving the current issues faced by the financial and consumer markets, as well as preventing future problems that may arise.
As outlined in the White Paper, once the proposed EU Consumer Rights Directive is enacted, it will provide the framework for the modification of domestic consumer law. In preparation, the Government, whilst sustaining necessary consumer protection, is determined to: simplify the proposed EU Directive ; use this simplified version as a foundation for more extensive reform of domestic sales law; elucidate the stance on contracts involving a combination of goods and services; and assess and update the current laws regarding ‘digital products’.
In particular, the White Paper sets out plans for a Consumer Bill of Rights which will modernise and simplify sales law in the UK, while implementing the EU Consumer Rights Directive.
In order to simplify the law, the Government has maintained that duplicate legislation needs to be removed. Currently, the extensive rights provided to consumers in the sale and supply of both goods and services are distributed amongst several overlapping and interacting statutes. Thus, simplification requires any needless distinctions between contracts of goods and services, contracts of combined goods and services, and contracts of different types of transactions, such as sales, hires or hire purchases, to be removed. Once these distinctions are removed, the current legislation on consumer law and the laws on the sale of goods and services will be consolidated into one, producing a result where goods and services will successfully be governed by the same rules, in the same way.
 Aatiyah, P. S. Aatiyah’s Sale of Goods (12th Edition). Ed. Adams and MacQueen. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd, 2010. – P. 3.
 European Union. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Consumer Rights. COM(2008) 614 final.
 Directive 85/577/EEC on contracts negotiated away from business premises, Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, Directive 97/7/EC on distance contracts, Directive 1999/44/EC on consumer sales and guarantees.
 Singleton, S. ‘ Proposed Consumer Rights Directive.’ Consumer Law Today. October (2008).
 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). A Better Deal for Consumers: Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future. Consumer White Paper Cm 7669. July 2009. – P. 76.
 Kuneva, M. ‘ Press Releases – Consumers: Commission Proposed EU-wide Rights for Shoppers’. EUROPA.
 House of Lords Debates. “Written Statements.” Hansard. 2 July 2009, Column WS27.
 BIS. A Better Deal for Consumers: Equality Impact Assessment. July 2009. – P. 3.
 BIS. supra note 5 - P. 3.
 BIS. supra note 8 - P. 15.
 BIS. supra note 5 - P. 78.
 Lucas, M. ‘ Update: Consumer (September)’. Solictors Journal. 153:34 (2009). P. 26-27.
 Singleton, S. ‘ UK Consumer Law White Paper.’ Consumer Law Today. Aug/Sept (2009). P. 9-12.
 Brennan, K. ‘ Consumer White Paper – A Better Deal for Consumers Speech ’. BIS Conference Centre. London. July 2, 2009.
 House of Commons. “Written Ministerial Statements.” Hansard. 2 July 2009, Column 23WS.
 Quinn, D. ‘ Report to the Tyne and Wear Trading Standards Committee. ’ Gateshead Council. – P. 2.
 BIS. supra note 5 - P. 80.
 BIS. supra note 5 - P. 81.
 Consumer Rights Expert. ‘ Changes to Consumer Law – How Will They Affect Me?
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