The vast majority of UK businesses are fair dealing and should not have a need to change their business practices to comply with consumer protection legislation. However, there are many UK businesses that are not fair dealing and may be committing a criminal offence. This blog sets out those practices that businesses should steer clear of, if they want to comply with consumer protection legislation.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008) (CPR) seeks to ensure that businesses act honestly and fairly towards their customers and provides definitive guidance on what will be deemed “unfair”.
A commercial practice will be “unfair” if it:
(a) is not professionally diligent; and
(b) materially distorts, or is likely to materially distort, the economic behaviour of the average customer.
Under the CPR a business must not subject consumers to aggressive sales techniques or mislead consumers through its acts or omissions. For example:
(a) a business falsely telling a consumer that their product cannot be repaired and will therefore need to be replaced with a new one (misleading act);
(b) a business sells a satellite television package to a consumer without indicating that sports channels are included at an additional subscription cost (misleading omission).
The CPR contains a list of 31 practices that will always be considered “unfair”. These include, for example falsely claiming a product is able to do something that it is not.
The 31 unfair commercial practices are considered to be unfair to all consumers at all times. However for any other practice to be considered unfair, it must be likely to make the average consumer worse off. This means that you either:
(a) made a decision that you may not have made, if you had been given all the information; or
(b) were put under undue pressure to buy something that you may not have bought, if you had been given a free choice.
The Office of Fair Trading and the Trading Standard Services are the lead enforcers for action against businesses that are in breach of the CPR. Penalties for breach includes a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum on summary conviction, and a fine and/or up to two years imprisonment on indictment.
To speak to a solicitor about unfair commercial practices, whether to ensure you are compliant with such practices, or to discuss a course of action is you have been the victim of such practices, please do not hesitate to get in touch.