Just as the UK ad community was getting to grips with the major changes wrought by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, the BERR has announced, wait for it, “A consultation on reforming the current UK consumer law regime.” Surely not. James Baker reports with disbelief.
Who: The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
When: May 2008
Law stated as at: 30 May 2008
On 8th May 2008 the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform ("BERR") published a new consultation paper on reforming the current UK consumer law regime. As regular readers of www.marketinglaw.co.uk are undoubtedly aware this month also saw the coming into force of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 ("CPUT") and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 ("BPRs").
So two weeks before one of the biggest changes in consumer law for many years, the government has called for a 'new' consultation on the very same laws (as well as a few others). Note here that although the BPRs are called "Business protection" Regulations, they are misnamed. This is because they contain a raft of rules that relate to comparative advertising and apply to both B2B and B2C ads.
BERR terms of reference
The terms of reference of the review are to (in BERR's own words):
"Examine the scope for simplifying existing legislation and enhancing flexibility and future-proofing while maintaining necessary protections for consumers."
"Explore avenues to simplify and rationalise enforcement, allowing greater targeting of action on higher-risk sectors or business."
"Investigate the options for improving consumer empowerment and redress including pursuing the joint Better Regulation Executive and National Consumer Council work on the efficacy of consumer information as a tool to drive desired consumer outcomes."
Apart from these terms being an example of jargon free English that would make the "Plain English Campaign" proud, it seems that once again BERR wishes to change everything. In translating the terms of reference into plain English, it seems BERR wants to find out from business, consumers and enforcers what aspects of the regulatory framework are the most challenging.
BERR also wishes to determine how burdensome and what value the current information provision requirements are, how well do the current legal protections serve vulnerable consumers and can the enforcement arrangements be made less burdensome for complying businesses.
The timing is interesting to say the least.
This consultation paper on reform of UK consumer protection law was published two weeks before the coming into force of the most extensive and radical ever set of reforms of …er…UK consumer protection law.
Also, the paper is requesting responses by 31st July 2008.
So the BERR is giving everyone two months to get used to the new regulations before determining the need to change them. It is clear that the two month period will not be enough time to really adjust to the CPUT and BPR's, let alone work out how the Office of Fair Trading, Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority are going to react to the new regulations.
Why this matters:
In the good old days, the government had the Department of Trade and Industry to help trade and industry. Now it has been re-branded the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), where the emphasis seems more on the regulatory reform than business and enterprise.
This consultation places UK advertisers in the invidious position of having to make all the effort required to adapt to CPUT and the BPR's, while at the same time being aware that they could soon be changed. In this environment, where the apparent need is not just to make new regulations but to make ever changing regulations, it is ever more important to keep up to date with changes in law and one way to do that is by reading the latest articles on www.marketinglaw.co.uk