Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 Consumer bodies given enforcement powers. 10 October 1999
Topic: Consumer Protection
New development: The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
Background: Elsewhere in this preview section we report on the looming implementation of the EU Injunctions for the Protection of Consumers' Interests, to give power come January 2001 to UK consumer bodies to take advertisers to court over ad related issues. The Regulations we report here relate to terms in consumer contracts, and although this may not seem an advertising issue, e tail growth (see the Argos case reported in the Newsfeed section) means ever closer cohabitation of marketing and sales messages and greater risks that the former become terms of the ensuing sale contract.
What will change: The 1999 Regulations replace the existing 1994 rules. The principal change is that "qualifying bodies" have the right to pursue traders using standard terms which are considered unfair, if necessary to the point of applying to the court for an injunction preventing further use of the offending terms. The only body with this power to date, the OFT, has relied mainly on cajoling and pressure rather than litigation in enforcing the 1994 Regulations. Indeed, the only reported case where it took a trader to court resulted in victory for the trader! The newly empowerede bodies include trading standards and most significantly the Consumers' Association. How the CA respond over the next year or so to being given this new power may give us some indication of the stance they will adopt once they are given still wider powers in 2001.
Timetable: The new Regulations came into force on 1 October 1999.
What happens next: We wait to see how energetically the new powers are used.