The new Consumer Rights Bill announced by consumer minister Jo Swinson is a positive step for all involved
We live in the age of the informed and empowered consumer. Long gone are the days where customers have no recourse to protest when a business has treated them badly. However, whilst social media and the internet have gone some way to help name and shame businesses with bad practices, actual consumer regulations have failed to keep pace with the changing climate – particularly with regard to digital media and e-commerce.
Which is why it comes as welcome news that consumer minister Jo Swinson has today announced a new Consumer Rights Bill that aims to enhance the rights of customers, as well as streamlining the variegated pieces of consumer regulations into a single focused piece of legislation. One of the key focuses of the new legislation is to make claims simpler for both customer and enterprise whilst ensuring both parties have the maximum protection possible.
From a consumer perspective, the draft bill will grant the right to claim back a portion of their money after a failed repair or faulty replacement of defective goods. If a service has been rendered that they deem unsatisfactory, they would be entitled to have the work redone or at least obtain a reduction in price.
Perhaps a more striking step is that the regulations would enable purchasers of faulty digital content to obtain a replacement, including films, music, online games and e-books. Crucially the bill also covers ‘freemium’ content – if a consumer hasn’t paid for a piece of software but has made in-app purchases, they would be entitled to a partial refund if the app later stops working.
It is also estimated that Swinson’s proposed legislation will save the economy £4bn over the next decade and much of this will come from saved costs to businesses. New measures in the bill aimed to save businesses money include a reduction in the training costs associated with bringing staff up to speed on convoluted regulations, as well as more rapid and lower cost resolutions for businesses who have breached competition law.
The minister commented on her proposal:
“For too long the rules that apply when buying goods and services have been murky for both consumers and businesses. The situation is even worse in relation to digital content.
“It is about time consumers knew what their rights are and businesses have clearer information on what is expected of them when problems inevitably do arise. That is why we have put clarity and fairness at the heart of the proposed Consumer Bill of Rights.”
It’s hard to argue with a proposition like this. All too often it seems that the interests of UK enterprise are painted as being in direct conflict with the rights of individuals but, in this instance, it really does seem like the government have hit on a win-win on their latest proposal.
The proposed bill can be viewed in its entirety here.