Policy

Providing better information and protection for consumers

Issue

The government believes that consumers who are well-informed about their rights and what they’re buying are more confident and more likely to spend money well, getting better deals or buying new goods and services. This rewards those businesses who are good at responding to what consumers want and helps stimulate growth.

We want to give consumers more confidence - and legal back-up - to deal with bad service or shoddy goods. Through clear, modern legislation we also want to help consumers and their advocates have a better understanding of their rights.

Actions

Consumer Rights Bill

We intend to simplify and clarify consumer law with a new bill (Act of Parliament). This will contain a clear list of rights for consumers, along with new measures to protect them.

The Consumer Rights Bill currently going through Parliament, contains remedies for when things go wrong.

Consumer and competition landscape reform

The ‘consumer landscape’ is the network of organisations that help consumers - Citizens Advice, for example.

The ‘competition landscape’ is the network of organisations that deal with competition issues and anti-competitive activities in business – the Office of Fair Trading, for example.

We’re working to reorganise both the consumer and competition landscapes between now and April 2014, to make them both simpler to understand and more efficient.

Implementing the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU

The Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) is an EU measure. All EU members have agreed to it.

The CRD gives consumers extra rights when buying in the UK and the EU. We’re aiming to make the CRD part of UK law by June 2014.

Misleading and aggressive selling

We’re improving the rights of people who have been misled into buying something, or who have been pressured into buying something.

Giving more power to consumers

On 20 December 2012, we published Better choices, better deals. Report on progress on the consumer empowerment strategy.

The report outlines how far we’ve got on the commitments in our consumer empowerment strategy since we launched it in April 2011.

Read more about the report.

Personal data

We’re helping consumers make better buying decisions by giving them improved access to the personal data companies hold about them.

This is called the midata project. We’re working with business, consumer and privacy groups. The project is led by an independent data expert.

Community buying

Consumers can combine their buying power to buy goods and services together. This can get them better deals. The government is supporting community buying in several ways:

  • by providing clear advice to community groups who want to get started
  • by running the ‘Buy better together challenge’, which had a £60,000 fund that was shared amongst innovative collective purchasing projects - the challenge was won by Smarterbuys, an organisation that helps provide affordable loans to disadvantaged people so they can buy essential goods

New food information legislation

The laws about food information are largely made at EU level. They set out the requirements for what information the food industry must give consumers and how this information must be presented. The EU has introduced new food information legislation and we’re introducing this in the UK.

Who can I contact for help and advice?

We can’t help with individual problems – but here are some people who can.

Background

Till now, Trading Standards have worked on mainly local cases and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) worked on some national ones. A National Audit Office (NAO) report was critical of this split and the ‘enforcement gap’ it caused.

The Consumer and Competition Landscape Reviews were published in spring 2012. They recommended several changes, including transferring the main responsibility for consumer advice to the Citizens Advice service.

Who we’ve consulted

We consulted on proposals for reforming consumer institutions – the ‘consumer landscape’. Empowering and protecting consumers had 184 responses and closed in September 2011.

We consulted in summer 2012 about whether we should have an ‘order-making power’ for midata. This power would give us the legal authority to make businesses release personal data to their customers. Following the consultation, we announced that we would legislate if companies didn’t release customers’ data voluntarily.

In 2012 we consulted on:

We published a combined government response to these consultations on 12 June 2013 with the Draft Consumer Rights Bill.

We consulted on the early implementation of a ban on above cost payment surcharges. This closed on 15 October 2012 and regulations to introduce the ban came into force on 6 April 2013.

We consulted on the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive and published the government response on 6 August 2013.

Who we’re working with

We worked with several partners to produce our ‘Guide for community buying groups’. All the organisations below contributed or checked material for us:

We also worked with the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission, who both did studies on misleading and aggressive selling.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.