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Commissions set out consumer rights proposals

10 November 2008

The Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission have started consulting on the legal remedies available to consumers when they buy goods which do not conform to contract.   

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) asked the two Law Commissions to look at the subject as part of a wider review of the eight existing European Commission consumer directives.

UK consumers are currently entitled to reject faulty goods and get a refund. However, it is unclear how long the right to a refund lasts.

Last month, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive that would (among other things) reform the law on consumer remedies. Under the Commission's approach, repair and replacement would be the first option, with the consumer only entitled to a refund in restricted circumstances.

The Law Commissions provisionally propose that a consumer should normally exercise the right to reject within 30 days. Lord Drummond Young, chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, said: "We believe that retaining the right to reject is crucial for consumer confidence and our research shows that consumers want this. We have also found that in several other member states, consumers have a right to a refund. This is an important debate and we urge all interested parties to join it and tell us their views.”

The judge added: "The problems are usually simple, but the law is complicated. There are effectively two legal regimes – the traditional UK remedies and the European remedies. The resulting confusion is bad for both consumers and retailers alike. Our aim is to provide a set of legal remedies that can be easily understood, consistently applied and which will be fair to both parties."

The consultation closes on 2 February 2009 and the Commissions expect to publish a report of recommendations next year.

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