34 RCI 0514

RCI May 2014

TRUSTMARK CONSUMER RIGHTS BILL Consumer law affects how we buy a huge range of products and services, from mobile phones to music downloads, from kettles to kitchen extensions, from sofas to software. That is why last June the Government unveiled new measures to enhance consumer rights and make them easier to understand. The proposals, outlined in the draft Consumer Rights Bill, streamline overlapping and complicated areas from eight pieces of legislation into a single consumer bill. They also introduce new rights for both consumers and businesses, dovetailing with the implementation of new directives from Europe. The aim is to enhance consumer protection, give people more power to challenge bad practices and give reputable businesses an advantage over fraudulent competitors. Claimed to be the most radical overhaul to consumer law for decades, the first part of the legislation (consumer contracts) comes into force on 13 June 2014. By clarifying and simplifying the reform, both consumers and businesses (i.e. tradesmen) should benefit significantly. Consumers will find it easier to understand their rights and quicker to apply them. Businesses will also spend less time having to interpret complex legislation and will have clearer information on what is expected from them when problems do inevitably arise. In addition, there will be wider options for redress if and when things go wrong for both parties. The new laws will apply equally to all businesses, including micro and small businesses. A lot of the Bill relates to digital products and services, including clear quality rights for digital content and appropriate remedies when these rights are breached. But many other aspects of the Bill are directly relevant to roofing and other domestic RMI (Repair, Maintenance & Improvement) services. For example, there is already a right that requires that a service is performed with reasonable care and skill, in line with agreed industry standards. But where the project time or the price for the service has not been agreed, it will now be clear that the service must be provided at a reasonable price and within a reasonable time. At the moment if that’s not done there are no remedies available in the legislation. The draft Bill 034 MAY 2014 RCIMAG.COM Stand up for your rights! It's about time consumers knew what their rights are and businesses had clearer information on what is expected of them when problems arise. Liz Male (left), TrustMark’s chairman, shares her views on the forthcoming new consumer rights bill and how it will impact on both consumers and tradespeople “The proposals, outlined in the draft Consumer Rights Bill, streamline overlapping and complicated areas from eight pieces of legislation into a single consumer bill. They also introduce new rights for both consumers and businesses, dovetailing with the implementation of new directives from Europe” proposes those remedies: in many circumstances, a customer will have a statutory right to ask for a poorly performed service to be carried out again if it can be, at a time convenient to them and at no extra charge. If the service cannot be redone quickly, the customer will be entitled to an appropriate reduction in price. The customer could also use their existing rights to sue a firm for damages to recoup the cost of getting the problem fixed, but it is hoped that in most cases consumers and businesses should be able to apply these remedies between themselves, reducing the need for consumers to take their problems to court. Most good firms would much prefer this too. Many of these measures outlined above will be good for consumers and good for businesses who are trying to do the right thing for their customers. The rules that apply when buying goods and services have been murky for too long. Boosting consumer confidence in tradesmen Unfortunately, the home improvement and repair sector has suffered from a poor reputation as a result of the publicity given to rogue traders and criminal gangs masquerading as tradesmen. TrustMark is fighting hard to rebuild consumer confidence in reputable tradesmen and the Bill will help to distinguish the good from the bad and will help trustworthy tradespeople get more business. I also believe that it will clarify grey areas for both homeowners and tradesmen, which is a big step forward to helping both sides enjoy a positive working relationship. Good communications are central to that relationship, and one of the Bill’s most critical proposals is the right to clear and honest information before customers buy. The Government intends to introduce a new statutory right that a service must comply with the information given by the trader, even if this is not recorded in a written contract, where the consumer takes this into account when making decisions about the service. Similarly, the new right will allow the business and the consumer to agree changes to the job in question, but will not allow the trader to change them unilaterally. Through the implementation of the consumer rights directive, the wider reforms will also introduce a requirement for traders to seek consumers’ express consent for any additional payments – so hopefully no more informal ‘job creep’ which leads to a row over the bill afterwards. TrustMark developed its ‘Talk to your Tradesman’ smartphone app in 2012. It helps both consumers and tradesmen have a better conversation, to ask all the right questions and to keep a record of what they have agreed. Our app has already helped many consumers and tradesmen to have greater confidence in their verbal agreements, and I think it will become an increasingly useful tool in the future given the new rights being considered now. www.trustmark.org.uk


RCI May 2014
To see the actual publication please follow the link above