The purchase of goods and services is the focus of consumer policy. Its primary goal is to protect its citizens’ health, safety, and economic well-being; it emphasises ideas like consumer rights, seller responsibilities, and how the market operates.
Policymaking in this area is necessary, which will focus on reshaping economic systems to better serve the public interest. Market failures (such as environmental pollution), unsafe products or services, and the need to protect consumers are all reasons for government intervention in consumer protection laws.
What are the UK consumer protection principles?
The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 in the UK was enacted on 1 October 2018. The act gives consumers rights and protection when purchasing goods and services. It has made consumer law more transparent and easier to understand, which means customers can buy and businesses can sell to them with confidence.
The Consumer Rights Act focuses on the following:
- Product quality
- Returning goods
- Repairs and replacement
- Delivery rights
- Unfair terms in contracts
Goods and services must meet the following standards.
- Described accurately: businesses should not misleadingly describe goods and services.
- Appropriate for its intended use: the product appears as the company claims and fulfils the purpose described on the label.
- Satisfactory quality: the product must be in good condition and not damaged or broken when sold. A consumer has the right to either return it or request a repair or replacement.
What other topics does consumer protection cover?
Consumer protection covers a range of topics. As shown in the below chart, the top 5 consumer protection topics in the UK regulations are:
Product Conformity & Consumer Safety
The Food Safety Act of 1984 was created to ensure that all foods sold in the UK are healthy for human consumption. The law specifies which ingredients can and cannot be included in food products. Furthermore, it regulates how and where food can be sold.
Food & drinks preparation hygiene
The Food Safety Act of 1990 requires establishments to have specific handling procedures for food products. The sale of potentially harmful or otherwise unfit foods is prohibited. Businesses, including farms and restaurants, must comply with the law.
If a product causes a consumer death, damage, or injury, they can sue the manufacturer for compensation under the Consumer Protection Act of 1987. The act restricts commercial establishments from selling harmful products.
Consumer rights, contracts & claims
The Consumer Credit Act of 1974 governs using credit to purchase goods. It prohibits companies from charging high-interest rates to consumers who get loans to buy expensive items. In addition, consumers have a week to withdraw from the agreement.
The rules and regulations of the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 protect consumers from deceptive business practices and guarantee their rights regarding product quality, refunds, repairs, replacements, and delivery.
Composition, labelling & identification
According to the Weights and Measures Act of 1985, food and beverages sold must have quantities, weights, and measures clearly stated on their packaging or containers.
The Labelling of Food Regulations Act of 1970 aims to ensure that consumers can access accurate information about food products to decide what to eat based on dietary needs, food allergies, personal preferences, and budget limitations. Therefore, all packaged food in the UK must contain an ingredient list.
Consumer rights for various sectors
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act of 2008 protects consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. The law requires sellers to provide consumers with accurate product and service information.
Consumer protection is an essential aspect of any market economy, and the UK has established a framework to regulate and enforce consumer protection laws across various sectors, particularly in wholesale and retail sales, manufacturing, accommodation and food services.
For instance, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) oversees competition in the market and ensures that businesses comply with consumer protection laws. The Trading Standards Services (TSS) are responsible to local authorities and are responsible for the enforcement of consumer law at a local level.
Consumer protection in each sector has gradually increased in volume in the past 20 years:
Authorities & Penalties
The former Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was the department that made the most regulations on consumer protection. Previously, the CMA was unable to impose fines for consumer law violations. However, the government has indicated that the CMA will now be given the authority to directly enforce consumer law, including the power to fine companies up to 10% of their global annual turnover and individuals up to £300,000 for consumer law violations.
The former BEIS was the department that made the most regulations on consumer protection, and the above chart shows the top 10 departments making regulations on this area split by the penalty mentioned in the regulation.
UK Geographical Regions
Following Brexit and the completion of the transition period, there have been updates to consumer law legislation in the UK (for instance, regarding references to EU institutions), but these have not resulted in substantial changes to the legislation.
Certain regulations govern the placement of goods on the Northern Ireland market, particularly in regard to product safety and standards. This is required by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which must continue to align itself with applicable EU regulations.
In England and Wales, TSS and CMA representatives are all members of the National Tasking Group, which assigns investigation and enforcement work. While TSS leads most in the local area, the CMA is more likely to take the lead in cases involving market-wide issues, issues affecting consumer choice, or unfair contract term issues (for which the CMA is the lead enforcer).
UK consumer protection regulations are applied equally across regions with some regional variations:
To Wrap Up
Overall, evaluating the impact of consumer policy is crucial to ensure that it effectively addresses the issues faced by consumers and mitigates the harm that may cause market failures for each sector. With the help of advanced technology and expert analysis, policymakers can make informed decisions and identify areas where government intervention is necessary.
Law Notion offers advanced technology that helps policymakers review the current regulatory system and articulate the need for government improvement based on the best and most up-to-date data. Law Notion has been providing detailed analysis and input to guide policymakers at the local, national, and EU levels in making appropriate interventions to address the challenges affecting regulations.
Contact Law Notion to access the best and most up-to-date data for informed policymaking.