Draft Consumer Rights Bill - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

7  Conclusion

312. The draft Bill is the key element of the Government's ambitious policy to reform UK consumer law. Along with the wider reforms, the draft Bill has the potential to consolidate, simplify and modernise consumer law with resultant advantages for consumers, businesses, their representatives and advisers, and enforcers.

313. Subject to the acceptance and implementation of the recommendations in this Report, consumers and businesses should benefit from greater clarity and certainty around the statutory rights and remedies that the draft Bill would apply to goods, digital content and services. The draft Bill provides a rare opportunity for the Government to align the liability standards that apply across goods, digital content and services, and we urge the Government to reconsider the evidence and grasp the opportunity to bridge the gap between consumer expectation and existing protection.

314. Our recommendations on unfair terms provide an opportunity for the Government to return to the principles of unfair contract terms legislation. If amended as we suggest, the draft Bill would address existing gaps in consumer protection and provide increased certainty and therefore confidence to businesses as well as consumers.

315. With the amendments that we recommend, the investigatory powers of consumer law enforcers should allow enforcers to continue their important role in protecting businesses and communities while offering greater clarity and certainty in relation to those powers. The measures will also reduce the regulatory burdens on businesses.

316. We welcome the proposed introduction of enhanced consumer measures in response to identified consumer detriment and inadequate access to redress. We recommend that private enforcers, subject to appropriate safeguards, should be able to use these mechanisms to improve consumer protection and business compliance, at a time of decreasing budgets.

317. Our recommendations in relation to private actions in competition law, specifically in relation to opt-out collective actions and settlements, are primarily aimed at ensuring that the draft Bill engages robustly with the realities of litigation, in particular in relation to costs and procedure. This will help to ensure that the proposed regime is effective and efficient.

318. The scope of the proposed reforms would represent the most significant overhaul of UK consumer law in decades. The Government has said that the reforms taken together are estimated to be worth over £4 billion to the UK economy over 10 years in quantified net benefits.[487] A coordinated and targeted campaign, to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under consumer law, will be of crucial importance if the Government wishes to unlock the economic benefits that it has forecast for businesses, consumers and society.

487   Department for Business, Innovation and Skills , Government Response, page 5 Back

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Prepared 23 December 2013