Changes are being proposed to consumer rights legislation that would make it easier for shoppers to get their money back after a failed repair, get a replacement download that actually works, be compensated with a price reduction or force firms to carry out work again that has not been completed to a satisfactory standard.
The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee published its report today on the draft Consumer Rights Bill, suggesting a string of amendments that it expected the Government to implement before the Bill goes to Parliament.
The Government believes the proposed legislation, unveiled in June, could boost the economy by £4bn over the next 10 years.
Today is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year with Visa Europe predicting that £1.2bn will be spent on its cards alone with a peak during the 1-2pm lunch break. Analysts also said that about 18 million shoppers spent about £3.85bn over the weekend.
For some, the holiday period will prove a tricky time to seek redress for faulty products.
The committee warned that extra protections were needed to ensure customers were not left unfairly out of pocket. The draft Bill creates a new right that services must be carried out with reasonable care and skill.
But the committee’s chairman, Adrian Bailey, a Labour MP, said there was a risk that “traders could see it as the standard to meet rather than a minimum requirement”.
“It is also extremely difficult for consumers to prove that a service was not provided with reasonable care and skill,” he said. “The Government’s proposals do not offer sufficient protection for the consumer. Ultimately, consumers are less interested in whether a service was conducted with reasonable care and skill than whether it achieved the stated result. The law should reflect this.”
The committee’s report also highlighted inconsistencies in the planned reforms that mean customers would have the right to a refund if they bought a faulty CD but would not be entitled to have their money back if a download of the same music did not work.
And it warned that plans to require traders that have breached consumer law to compensate customers might not make a significant difference if public authorities did not have the time and money to pursue offenders.
The MPs suggested that new powers should be given to “private enforcers” as long as there were “appropriate safeguards”.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of the consumer champion Which?, said the draft Bill would “bring the law into the 21st century and make it easier for people to understand their rights and challenge bad practice”.
“While there are many welcome measures in the Bill, like reforming the law on unfair terms and conditions, it’s good to see MPs following our recommendations to strengthen it even further,” he said.
“This will be both beneficial for consumers and for businesses that try to do the right thing by their customers.”