Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Bill aims to boost consumer rights

Consumer minister Jo Swinson said clearer consumer rights would create a fairer marketplace

A bill giving increased rights to consumers and reducing burdens on business is set to be unveiled in the Queen's Speech.

Ministers believe reforming legislation will save the economy around £4 billion over 10 years in more effective protection and better understanding of consumer rights.

The expected bill would consolidate consumer rights, currently split between eight pieces of legislation, into one place.

It will cover goods, services, digital content and unfair contract terms and consolidate more than 60 pieces of legislation on trading standards' powers to investigate breaches of consumer law into one piece of legislation.

Consumer minister Jo Swinson said: "Stronger consumer protection and clearer consumer rights will help create a fairer and stronger marketplace. We are fully aware that this area of law over the years has become unnecessarily complicated and too confusing, with many people not sure where to turn if they have a problem.

"We are hoping to bring in a number of changes to improve consumer confidence and make sure the law is fit for the 21st century."

Ministers believe businesses will benefit from faster resolution of complaints as they would spend less time and money dealing with them. The bill is expected to help people unhappy with home improvements and make it easier to seek refunds for faulty goods.

It will also be confirmed this week that Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland have agreed to take on the responsibilities of Consumer Focus from April 2014.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "A Consumer Bill of Rights is a welcome step towards ensuring that we have consumer laws fit for the 21st century.

"This bill is about making it easier for people to understand their rights and giving consumers power to challenge bad practice. It should also mean that both consumers and regulators have the tools they need to challenge unscrupulous businesses that breach the law."

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