Business, Innovation and SkillsWritten evidence submitted by The Publishers Association


The Publishers Association (“The PA”) is the representative body for book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK. Our 110 members span the trade, academic and education publishing sectors and contribute £5 billion per annum to the UK economy, £3.3 billion of which comes from the sale of books and over £1.5 billion from the sale on journals.

The PA welcomes the opportunity to submit written evidence to the inquiry into the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Consumer Rights Bill. The PA contributed to the BIS Consultation on the Bill of Rights White Paper and attended a number of consultation sessions with the Bill team. The PA is also a member of the Alliance for Intellectual Property and supports its submission to the Committee.

Digital Content

The PA was extremely impressed with the degree of consultation undertaken by the Bill team and the ways in which the team took onboard industry concerns. As a result, the Clauses of particular interest to our sector—those included in Chapter Three relating to Digital Content—strike an appropriate balance between ensuring consumers have appropriate redress, whilst recognising the unique nature of digital content. The PA supports Clauses 4447, specifically that when legitimately purchased or accessed digital content breaches the contractual terms set out in Clauses 36, 37 and 38, a consumer’s first remedy is the right to a repair or replacement and not a refund (as is more appropriate for physical goods).

Suggestions for Improvement

The PA agrees with the submission from the Alliance for Intellectual Property that this Bill is a missed opportunity to address other issues and problems consumers face online, in particular those resulting from the buying or accessing of illegal content.

Whilst Clauses 43 and 44 attempt to give consumers additional redress if a seller turns out not to be legitimate (the right to a refund if the seller does not have the right to provide that content to the consumer), the draft Bill should include measures to prevent the operation of rogue traders in the first place and provide consumers with additional safeguards when purchasing online.

To this end, we support the proposals put forward by the Alliance, specifically that the Bill should include:

measures to ensure that eBay and social media platforms have robust and effective processes in place to prevent illegal traders from a) selling on their platforms in the first place and b) are not able to register under a different name and continue their illegal activity; and

measures to compel domain registries to carry out effective verification and validation of all their registrants contact details.

In addition, the Consumer Rights Bill should include measures requiring businesses (entities) to take all reasonable steps not to promote or support sites where they have reasonable knowledge of infringement of copyright. Legitimate businesses/services understandably provide reassurance to consumers that purchasing for a particular site is safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For example, the use of search engines such as Google often produce high ranking (within the top 10) search results which include infringing sites. This is despite the fact that Google receives millions of URL delisting requests each month. Consumers are therefore unwittingly directed to rogue sites, under the mistaken impression that they can shop safely online at these sites when the goods/services sold there may be illegal or infringing and/or may include harmful material such as viruses or malware. With no ability to get a refund should the product be faulty, greater efforts need to be put into ensuring consumers are not misled into using illegal sites in the first place. We would support efforts to tackle this problem via the Consumer Bill of Rights, and support any proposals placing an obligation on businesses (entities) not to trade with, promote or support sites where they have either reasonable or actual knowledge of infringement of copyright.

Richard Mollet
Chief Executive

Gemma Hersh
Head of Public Affairs

12 August 2013

Prepared 20th December 2013