By ‘EC, That Didn’t Take Long!

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Just over 2 months since the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (‘CRA’) came into force the European Commission has proposed several alterations to the recently established rules on areas relating to the sale of goods online and the supply of digital content.

The proposals are designed to synchronise consumer protections across the EU and ensure that no member state gives consumers greater or lesser protection than others. The first directive extends to the sale of goods (services are not covered) online or otherwise at a distance, while the second directive largely mirrors these provisions but in the context of the supply of digital content such as computer software or music downloads. It is considered that the measures will facilitate trade by giving consumers the confidence to buy goods and digital content from other member states, while also enabling businesses to use a single set of terms and conditions.

In relation to the distance selling of goods, the new rules will remove the short term right to reject faulty goods that was one of the headline reforms within the CRA. Instead consumers will firstly have to request a repair or replacement, and only if these remedies fail will the consumer be able to reject the goods and claim a refund. In this regard consumers can nonetheless be reassured that their rights to a 14 day cooling off period under the Consumer Contracts Regulations will not be affected by the possible changes. In other areas the EC proposals strengthen consumer protection – for instance the period within which it is presumed that a defect was present on delivery will be extended from 6 months to 2 years.

For the supply of digital content, content supplied for non-monetary consideration (such as receiving personal data in return) will be subject to quality standards and remedies. Under the CRA only digital content supplied for a price is covered. Further new rules include that, apart from where otherwise agreed with the consumer, digital content must be supplied instantly and be the most recent version. There are many other extra requirements relating to digital content, and it is arguable this raft of new rules is at odds with the fundamental objective of the CRA – to make consumer contracts for goods, services and digital content as consistent as possible.

It must be stressed that the directives have yet to be finalised and a final text must still be agreed between the European Council and Parliament, which will no doubt present UK representatives with the opportunity, if they wish, to lobby for a lesser impact on the existing national legislation. Consequently the CRA is likely to be effective in its present form for some time to come, although we’ll need to watch this space.

If you have any questions about consumer rights or require assistance with any other commercial matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at john.pickervance@forbessolicitors.co.uk or on 0800 689 0831.

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