Consumers to get new rights to tackle rogue traders


Consumers will gain new legal rights against misleading and aggressive traders under proposals outlined today.

Those exploited by scams and rip-offs will have a "clear and easy route to redress" under the reforms drawn up by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission, entitling them to a refund, discount or damages.

The commissions said a large proportion of victims were among the most vulnerable in society, with housebound and older people facing a particular threat from high-pressure doorstep selling.

Existing laws governing misleading and aggressive practices meant it was difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to get their money back, they added.

Law Commissioner David Hertzell said: "Recent research by the Office of Fair Trading shows that elderly and vulnerable consumers are being systematically targeted by these unfair trading practices.

"We have an ageing population and, without reform, this victimisation of the vulnerable can only get worse. By simplifying the law, our recommended reforms will give more confidence to consumers and help drive rogue traders out of the market place, where currently they damage the reputation and livelihood of good, honest businesses."

Scottish Law Commissioner Professor Hector MacQueen added: "Consultees strongly supported our reforms. We hope that our recommendations will be included in the Government's proposed Consumer Bill of Rights."

Which? consumer group executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Consumers are fed up with high-pressure selling tactics. If someone is misled or bullied into buying unsuitable products or services, then they should have the right to get their money back and be compensated.

"These recommendations represent a step forward for consumer rights. We look forward to the Government implementing these reforms and giving consumers the better protection they need against rogue traders."

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "For too long the law has neglected to recognise that people should get their money back when they have been subjected to pressure selling. Complex laws on misrepresentation have also failed consumers who have been blatantly misled by sales people. We need a simple consumer law to help consumers get a refund or compensation in these cases so that shoppers aren't left with a sting in their pocket, and we need it fast.

"We welcome the recognition that when a business uses aggressive and misleading practices, including aggressive demands for payment, they both break the law and need to put things right for the consumers on the receiving end."