Consumer protection laws are there to save consumers from business practices and tactics that can cause them harm. It is important for businesses to understand and comply with these laws, as breaching consumer laws can be consequential to the economic status and reputation of a business. 

For example, businesses need to ensure their advertising practices do not mislead consumers. This helps maintain fair competition in the market. 

In this article, we’ll go through the basics of consumer protection regulations every business should be aware of. We’ll look at: 

What Is Consumer Law In The UK?

Consumer laws in the UK are regulations targeted at making sure consumers are protected when they’re engaging with businesses in the market. These regulations aim to protect consumers from any conduct that will cause them unnecessary economic loss, physical harm, deception and fraudulence of any kind. 

In other words, they are aimed at protecting the rights of consumers when purchasing goods. 

Consumer Rights

Consumer rights refer to a customer’s legal right to be treated in accordance with the law. In a nutshell, consumers have the right to be treated fairly as a customer either by service or in the quality of the product they purchase. 

This is also because businesses tend to have larger bargaining power in the sale of goods. They have a lot of flexibility around the display of prices and what the consumer sees. So, the law protects consumers to make sure this exchange is fair. 

If a business fails to provide a customer with services or products that do not meet legal requirements, they are likely engaging in unfair trading practices (we’ll go into more depth about this later). 

According to consumer rights, a product purchased by a consumer cannot be faulty, harmful, broken or less than what was promised in any way. A consumer also has the right to expect transparency and be free of dishonest business practices.

If consumers feel they have been wronged in any way, they have the right to bring forth a complaint about the business that has grieved them.

Consumer rights are largely protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

The consumer laws protect a consumer’s ability to make purchases safely and trust they will be satisfied with the way they have been treated and with their purchase. 

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is the main piece of legislation used to secure the rights of consumers. 

Consumer law rights cover:

  • Purchasing items that are in a good condition 
  • Purchasing items that a real
  • Protection from unfair contract terms
  • A right to be treated and served fairly 

Essentially, the laws are there to make sure consumers are protected if they are scammed, manipulated, ripped off or cheated in any way. If a consumer feels their rights have been breached, they are able to lodge a complaint against a business. 

Therefore, it’s crucial for businesses to ensure they are doing everything they can to protect the rights of their consumers. Businesses should be proactive in making sure their products and services are exactly what they have promised to the customer.

What Are The Laws Around False Advertising?

False advertising is considered an illegal practice, as it breaches consumer rights to be informed about the product or service they are purchasing. 

Example
Monica has booked and paid for a spa treatment online. One of the reasons she was drawn to the particular spa is because they offered certain treatments and amenities that Monica was keen to try out. 

On the day of her booking, Monica arrives at the spa to find they do not have the facilities they advertised and don’t offer most of the services they claimed to. In this case, the spa is at fault for false advertising.   

When you’re in the business of selling a product or a service, it’s important to make sure all your communications with customers are up to date and truthful. If you cannot provide something, don’t say you can. 

It’s much better to not have that particular customer than to have a customer who has been deceived, as these are grounds for legal consequences. 

What Is Misleading Advertising?

Misleading advertising refers to statements or conduct that leads a customer to believe something that is not true about a product or service. False advertising, on the other hand, refers to claims about a product that is simply not true. 

However, misleading advertising (although they fall under the same category of deceiving customers) can include a broader scope of conduct in its definition.

A misleading advertisement can either be a statement or conduct that leads a consumer to believe an untrue fact about the product. Misleading statements are usually assessed on the basis of whether a reasonable person would be misled by the act or admission. 

So, even if the statement is simply likely to mislead, it can attract the same legal consequences. 

Example
John is looking to buy a new car. He specifically wants a blue model and informs the car salesman that whichever car they show him must come in his preferred shade of blue. 

After John decides on the car he would like to purchase, he asks the salesman if it comes in the particular shade of blue he wants. The salesman simply smiles at John, leading him to believe the answer was positive. 

A few weeks later when John goes to pick up his car, he sees the colour is different to what he had expected. When John complains, the car salesman tells John that he never specifically stated the car came in the colour he wanted. In this case, John has the right to make a complaint about the car dealership as he was misled into purchasing a car.

What Are Unfair Trading Practices?

Unfair trading practices are acts that disadvantage a customer by scamming, cheating or endangering them through deceptive practices or the quality of the items they purchased. 

Unfair trading practices can constitute a whole range of acts, therefore, the definition is deliberately broad. As a business, it’s your duty to make sure any customer that interacts with your business is treated fairly. 

Unfair trading practices can look like: 

  • A customer being told they will get 10% off their purchase if they spend a certain amount, however, the discount is never applied 
  • An item arriving with a damaged or cracked surface 
  • Refusing to allow returns for items that were faulty 
  • Adding additional or hidden expenses 
Example
Tia is shopping for a tablet. At the store, she sees a tablet that comes in a pack with a cover and stylus pen. Thinking it’s a great deal for the price, Tia decides to purchase it. 

Once she’s at the counter, the cashier scans her items and tells Tia an amount that is significantly higher than she expected. When Tia questions the price, the cashier informs her the stylus pen and tablet cover have an additional charge and they cannot be sold separately. 

Sneakily adding an additional charge is more than likely to be considered an unfair trade practice. 

Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations

The UK takes consumer protection seriously. The Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 is a key piece of legislation used to promote fair trading practices in the UK. Essentially, the unfair sale practices of false advertising, misleading and even aggressive sale tactics are banned under the trade regulations. 

These rules apply not only to customers a business serves, but also any potential customers as they are applicable before, during and after a sale has been completed. 

If a consumer were to make a complaint against unfair trading practices, businesses can be prosecuted under both the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 so compliance with these laws are of crucial importance. 

How To Comply With Consumer Guarantees

Complying with consumer guarantees is essential to ensure your business practices are legal and your customers are satisfied. Disputes with customers can be lengthy and costly, so getting everything right on your end can save a lot of hassle down the line! 

It’s best to see the advice of a legal expert so you can have advice tailored to your business. Either way, the basics of providing customers with their consumer guarantees include: 

  • Providing a warranty (usually six years according to the law) 
  • Making sure customers can asks for returns, repairs and refunds (it’s always good to have a process for this)
  • Providing customers with a docket or receipt so they have a proof of purchase  
  • For online orders, giving customers a certain amount of time to cancel their order 

It’s worth reading more into your rights and duties under consumer guarantees

Do I Need Terms And Conditions?

Many businesses operate entirely or partly online. If your business is one of these, then you may have heard of getting online terms and conditions

The terms and conditions document is essentially an agreement between the customer and your business. It sets out the duties and obligations of both parties, prior to using the website. These terms are useful as it can limit any liability should something go wrong. 

For an online business, a terms and conditions agreement should detail the obligations of the business under consumer law practices. This usually includes:

  • Acknowledging the businesses duty to display all items and prices correctly 
  • Provide accurate descriptions, photos and videos of the items 
  • Ensuring the customer is protected from scams or frauds on their website
  • Letting consumers know of their right to returns and warranties

Consumers also have a legal duty to engage honestly and fairly with the business. Terms and conditions that reflect consumer legislation in its wording are always beneficial, as it constitutes a legally binding contract between you and your customers. 

If you need help with getting the terms and conditions for your website sorted, our team of legal experts would be happy to draft one for you! 

Key Takeaways 

Consumer protection regulations are an essential part of not only having a legally compliant business but also, giving customers a positive experience. To summarise what we’ve covered in this article: 

  • Consumer protection laws allow consumers to purchase products and services that are exactly as promised
  • Misleading and false advertisements are illegal under consumer protection laws 
  • Unfair trade practices are strictly prohibited
  • It’s up to a businesses to ensure they are providing consumers with their rightful guarantees 
  • It’s important for a businesses website to have a terms and conditions that reflect consumer laws 

If you would like a consultation on consumer protection regulations, you can reach us at 08081347754 or [email protected] for a free, no-obligations chat.

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