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Consumer Rights Bill 2013-14
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The Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech on 8 May 2013 and aims to consolidate legislation in one place and will bring together eight pieces of legislation on consumer rights and will cover goods, services, digital content and unfair contract terms.
In April 2011, the government published a strategy document, and this was followed In July 2012, by the publication of a consultation paper on enhancing consumer confidence.
The following proposals had been put forward to fill the gap that currently exists where there were no statutory remedies available to consumers for breach of the implied term that businesses would use 'reasonable care and skill' when providing services:
- Creating a statutory guarantee that creates a minimum standard that services will be provided with 'reasonable care and skill'. This cannot be excluded by businesses when dealing with consumers.
- Introduction of statutory remedies for breach of this minimum standard of 'reasonable care and skill'; including repair of the fault or re-performance, with a reduction in price and/or termination rights if these remedies fail.
- The introduction of a default statutory guarantee that a service will be carried out within 30 days unless a time is otherwise agreed or fixed in the contract. This replaces the current vague concept of performance within 'reasonable time'.
- For services contracts relating to a consumer's goods or property (e.g. installation or repair services), introducing a strict liability 'satisfactory quality' standard.
- To improve clarity and increase the level of protection given to consumers when purchasing digital content via intangible media, the government is proposing to introduce a separate regime for sub-standard digital content based on the regime for 'goods'.
Similarly, the legislation would provide easier access to compensation where there had been breaches of consumer or competition law. For example, this includes new powers to seek a court to require compensation to be paid to consumers where consumer law has been breached.
An EU Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EU), which was adopted in October 2011, must be implemented in the UK by December 2013. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has indicated they seek to implement the directive through a Bill on consumer rights.
The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable MP, on 23 January 2014. The Bill was read for the first time and ordered to be printed.
The second reading of the Bill took place on 28 January 2014. After a short debate, the Bill was passed to a Public Bill Committee.
The committee stage begun on 11 February 2014. In the first day, the committee considered evidence from the Scottish Law Commission, Association of British Insurers, Which?, the Finance and Leasing Association and Citizens Advice.