作者

Debbie Heywood

Senior Counsel – Knowledge

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作者

Debbie Heywood

Senior Counsel – Knowledge

Read More

2024年2月29日

Radar - February 2024 – 2 / 3 观点

Government confirms plans for further consumer protection changes

  • Briefing

Debbie Heywood looks at the government's plans to further update UK consumer protection law.

What's the issue?

In September 2023, The government published a 'Consultation on Improving Price Transparency and Product Information for Consumers' and a report on 'Estimating the prevalence and impact of online drip pricing'. The consultation set out proposed wording for a ban on fake online reviews which would be added to the list of automatically unfair commercial practices in the Digital Markets Competition and Consumers (DMCC) Bill. It also looked at:

  • display of pricing information
  • hidden fees and drip pricing
  • how professional diligence requirements should be interpreted for online platforms and whether the term should be redefined with the aim of ensuring online platforms and consumers have greater clarity over their respective rights and responsibilities
  • whether enforcers other than the CMA should be able to apply to court for an online interface order.

In addition, there were questions on the suitability of the current list of 31 automatically unfair commercial practices which are intended to be imported into the DMCC from the outgoing Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUT Regs). See here for more.

What's the development?

The Department for Business and Trade published its response to the consultation on 24 January 2024.

Following analysis of the responses, the government's plans now include: 

  • Updating the Price Marking Order largely in line with the CMA's recommendations, including to ensure communication of unit prices (excluding deposits), and legibility criteria. The exemption for small shops will be retained.
  • Addressing drip pricing by amending the DMCC Bill to include provisions similar to those in the CPUT Regs. Traders will be banned from displaying headline prices which do not incorporate any mandatory fees or disclose variable mandatory fees and how they will be calculated. 
  • The DMCC Bill will be amended to add submitting, commissioning, incentivising, publishing or providing access to fake reviews to the list of banned practices. The wording will be as proposed in the consultation. 
  • The government will publish guidance for online platforms on their professional due diligence obligations under the DMCC Bill (currently under CPUT Regs). 
  • Additional public enforcers including the FCA and ICO will be able to apply for online interface orders but private enforcers (currently Which?) will not be permitted to do so. 
  • The government does not propose to make any additional (subject to the above) amendments to the list of terms which are automatically unfair in the CPUT Regs or the DMCC Bill. 
  • There will not be an extension to consumers' private rights of redress for misleading omissions, breaches of professional due diligence, or automatically unfair commercial practices.

Timelines were not included. 

What does this mean for you?

This consultation formed part of the UK government's review of consumer protection law following Brexit. Among other things, the DMCC Bill will repeal the CPUT Regulations but the government felt more research was needed in some areas.

Provision to make further changes have been embedded into the Bill through powers given to the Secretary of State, including to amend the list of automatically unfair commercial practices. Interestingly, the wording around fake online reviews was first published alongside the DMCC Bill. The Bill has completed its progress through the House of Lords Committee stage and will shortly return to the House of Commons. It is unclear whether or not the government will now put the fake online review changes into the Bill before it passes given there is still scope to amend it. As part of the overall aim of the DMCC Bill is to consolidate and simplify consumer protection legislation, it would be helpful to have the conclusions from the consultation included on the face of the final legislation.

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