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Consumer law to undergo "radical overhaul"

Minister Richard Bruton said that much of the law in the consumer area is totally inappropriate for the era of the smartphone and the large supermarket.
Oct 18th 2011, 11:09 AM 794 10

CONSUMER LAW IS to be overhauled and a comprehensive Consumer Rights Act is to be enacted, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said today.

He was speaking as he launched the report of the Sales Law Review Group, which was established by his department to make recommendations on reform of law in the consumer law area.

He said the report found that:

much of the law in this area dates from the late 19thcentury and is totally inappropriate for the era of the smartphone and the large supermarket.

He has asked his department to “radically overhaul” the four Acts and the five pieces of secondary legislation relating to consumer transactions.

By consolidating and reforming the plethora of laws in the area to bring about a comprehensive Consumer Rights Act we  will create a structure that will be appropriate for the 21st-century consumer market, will be simpler to understand, will create clearer rules for businesses, and will bring about substantial improvements for consumers.

New laws in the area are expected to include:

  • A ban on excessive payment fees – it will not be permissible for a seller to charge payment fees greater than the cost of processing the payment
  • A ban on additional charges on consumers by means of ‘pre-ticked boxes’ – additional charges will only be permitted where express consent is given
  • Curbs on “small print”, possibly by requiring minimum font sizes and mandatory font colour such as black
  • A requirement that receipts be issued in consumer transactions
  • A rule that consumers would have the right to reject faulty goods within 30 days, replacing the complex and uncertain rules that currently apply
  • A rule that goods must be of satisfactory quality
  • Significant pro-consumer improvements in laws relating to services, including a rule that sellers cannot exclude certain terms in consumer contracts and strengthened guarantees as to the quality of a service provided to a consumer
  • Improvements in the rules governing distance and off-premises selling. These will apply to internet purchases, for example, and will include  an increase from 7 to 14 days in the time period in which consumers can withdraw from a contract

The Minister said that some of these provisions – such as the measure in respect of excessive payment fees and ‘pre-ticked boxes’ – will be implemented before the legislation is.

Consumers’ Association of Ireland chief executive, Dermott Jewell, told that the CAI was represented on the Sales Law Review Group and welcomed the provisions of the report.

He commented:

Notable provisions include – at long last the necessity and entitlement to a receipt; the right to reject within 30 days; the ban on pre-ticked boxes; curbs on small print and the concept of ‘Satisfactory Quality’ becoming the standard term.
We are seeing the scales rebalanced here to the benefit and protection of the consumer and would hope that the measures are legislated for with the urgency they deserve.
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Aoife Barry


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