On November 22 2011, the Consumer Rights Directive was published by the Official Journal of the European Union and includes an express provision that EU member states "adopt and publish by 13 December 2013, the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive".

Thereby, member states have two years in which to ensure legislative compliance with the Directive, with the laws having effect within 6 months of the date of implementation. As the countdown period is fast approaching, we thought we would summarise the key changes.

Some key provisions of the Directive for those businesses dealing with consumers in the Energy Sector including those involved in utilities and in the Green Deal are as follows:

  1. New Cooling off periods (distance sales, e.g. Internet sales, mobile phone, catalogue sales and doorstep sales): Cooling off period of 14 calendar days when consumers can change their mind when making online purchases or purchases away from business premise
  2. Pre-contractual information: The Directive obliges the trader to provide the consumer with a clear set of information requirements (e.g. the main characteristics of the product, geographical address and identify of the trader, the price inclusive of taxes, all additional freight, delivery or postal charges).
  3. Rules on delivery and passing of risk to the consumer: There will be a maximum of 30 calendar days for the trader to deliver the goods to the consumer.
  4. Digital Content: Information on digital content will have to be clearer at the point of sale, including about its compatibility with hardware and software and the application of any technical protection measures.
  5. Ban on tick boxes: Ban on "pre-ticked" boxes on websites. Consumers can no longer be required to "untick" boxes to avoid extra goods and/or services when shopping online.
  6. Credit/Debit Card Charges: When a given means of payment is used (such as a debit/credit card), traders will be prohibited from charging consumers fees that exceed the cost borne by the trader.

Even more changes are to be made to UK Consumer Law

In light of the expected approval of the Directive, plans were announced recently by the Government Consumer Minister Edward Davey to to merge all existing UK consumer protection laws and regulations, together with the requirements of the finalised Consumer Rights Directive, into a single new 'Consumer Bill of Rights'.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills intends to consult on the Bill in late 2011/early 2012 and we will update you with any developments in due course.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.