Friday, 31 January 2014

Get it sorted

Constituents bring all sorts of consumer problems to me to ask if I can help sort them out. They include unexpected rises in bills, being tied into contracts, being mis-sold goods or services and a range of other practices that make them feel they’ve been cheated or left short changed.

Problems range wide and far, such as landlords who charge additional fees to tenants or try to change lettings contracts, issues with insurance policies and pensions fees, builders and contractors who fail to complete works, problems with goods and tickets bought online, and even supermarket special offers that are more expensive than the original product. I can’t start to claim to solve them all, but I’ve certainly learned lots about the law on these issues.

In the UK, consumer law has developed piecemeal over the last thirty years. It is now complex, ambiguous and has simply failed to keep up with technological change. As a result, both consumers and businesses find it difficult to understand their legal rights and obligations.

After consultations in 2011/12, the government published a draft Consumer Rights Bill (CRB) last June. If implemented, it will be the biggest overhaul of consumer law for decades.

CRB sets out a framework that brings together consumer rights covering contracts for goods, services, digital content as well as the law about unfair terms in consumer contracts. In addition, CRB proposes changes to the powers that regulators, such as Trading Standards Officers, have to investigate breaches and to enforce the law. It also proposes easier ways for consumers and small businesses to challenge anti-competitive behaviour.

So, in preparation for scrutinising the CRB to see if it is fit-for-purpose, MPs will be interested to hear about problems you are having with goods and services. What has caused the problem? What could have prevented the problem arising in the first place? When things went wrong, why couldn’t you get it sorted and what redress were you seeking but didn’t get?

Make sure you speak up now. There may not be another big review for decades!

If you want to find out more about the issues and what is being proposed, go to: