Consumer Skills
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27th May 2008

Consumer Protection Gets A Makeover

A press release from Trading Standards Service

A major new piece of legislation being introduced this month gives Northern Ireland consumers additional protection against unfairness in the marketplace.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations sets out a new approach to tackling consumers' complaints about unfair practices. For the first time it places a general duty not to trade unfairly on businesses dealing with consumers.

The Regulations also prohibit misleading and aggressive practices and specify 31 commercial practices which will automatically be considered unfair. These include:-
· So-called prize draws, where you have to pay money to claim the prize.
· A salesman ignoring a request to leave the house.
· Bogus closing down sales.
· Telling a consumer that if they do not buy the product, then the trader could lose his or her job.

In the future the majority of unfair sales and marketing practices will be subject to the Regulations.

Also outlawed by the Regulations are misleading actions and omissions by businesses and aggressive commercial practices. A workman charging well above the price he quoted and then threatening to undo repairs if he didn't get paid that amount would be an example of an aggressive practice now covered by the law.

In Northern Ireland the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations will be enforced by the Trading Standards Service (TSS) of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. According to Kevin McNamara of the TSS: “These new Regulations increase consumer protection by criminalising many unscrupulous business practices which had previously been outside the control of the law.

“We can now deal with those activities which cause distress to members of the public, which were previously outside our remit.”

If consumers have a complaint about an unfair business practice or those in business want more information about the Regulations, please contact Consumerline on 0845 600 6262 or log on to www.consumerline.org.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1.The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 came into force on 26 May 2008. They bring into force in the UK the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005.

2.For media enquiries please contact the DETI Press Office, telephone 0280 529 591.