Consumer law

Civil enforcement remedies - consultation on extending the range of remedies available to public enforcers of consumer law

The proposals would allow remedies aimed at achieving one or more of three outcomes:

  • increased business compliance with the law;
  • improved redress for consumers affected by the breach; and
  • more confident consumers who are empowered to exercise greater consumer choice.

The consultation considers whether implementation of the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 or introducing new remedies under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 would be most appropriate. Part 8 currently allows for court-based enforcement orders which can be used to stop a business behaving in a particular way.

The proposals in this consultation form part of a proposed wider reform of consumer law, intended to simplify and clarify consumer law to reduce business compliance costs and empower consumers. Implementation of the proposals would require primary legislation, which we propose to do via a proposed Consumer Bill of Rights.

Unfair terms in consumer contracts

This issues paper looks at unfair terms in contracts between businesses and consumers. During 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is consulting on a package of measures to clarify consumer law, to be introduced by primary and secondary legislation. This provides an opportunity to clarify the law on unfair terms as it affects consumers. The issues paper makes proposals for reform and asks questions covering two key areas:

Enhancing consumer confidence by clarifying consumer law: consultation on the supply of goods, services and digital content

The consultation seeks views on options to simplify and clarify the law in relation to the supply of goods, services and digital content supplied under a contract.

Consultation on Consolidating and Modernising Consumer Law Enforcement Powers

This consultation seeks views on simplifying enforcement officers' investigatory powers and the removal of barriers to trading standards operating efficiently.

The proposals in this consultation, which form part of a package of measures to simplify consumer law, seek to simplify enforcement officers' investigatory powers into a single set, and remove barriers to trading standards operating efficiently.

The proposals also aim to reduce burdens on business, by requiring businesses to be given reasonable notice of officers' routine visits unless there are good reasons for them to be unannounced.

Debt collection: Revised OFT guidance on debt collection

Revised OFT guidance on debt collection was published in October 2011. Following representations received, the OFT decided to undertake a supplementary consultation on its position on use of "continuous payment authority" as a means of recovering monies owed in respect of consumer credit related debts as set out in paragraph 3.9m of that document.

The OFT are also taking this opportunity to consult on the specific practice of debiting monies from an account in the absence of having the express authority to do so (including under circumstances in which the lender may have the authority, under a continuous payment authority or otherwise, to recover monies from another account(s)). This practice is dealt with in what could, subject to consultation, become a new paragraph 3.9n of the guidance. This would replace what is currently the third bullet point of paragraph 3.9m in the revised debt collection guidance.

Payment protection products: FSA/OFT joint consultation

The OFT and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) are jointly consulting on proposed guidance to firms in relation to payment protection products.

The OFT and the Financial Services Authority jointly consulted on proposed guidance to firms in relation to payment protection products. These are products designed to meet similar consumer needs to payment protection insurance (PPI), and include debt freeze and debt waiver offered as part of a regulated consumer credit agreement or mortgage.

The proposed guidance is a result of joint working by the OFT and the FSA in the light of the Competition Commission's market investigation into PPI and emerging concerns about new protects and practices.

The OFT's part of the proposed guidance sets out how the OFT considers the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (CCA) applies to payment protection products, and what firms can do to ensure compliance with the CCA. It also sets out examples of business practices which the OFT is likely to regard as unfair or improper (whether unlawful or not) and may cast doubt on fitness to hold a consumer credit licence.