Key takeaways from the Cooley products team webinar on consumer rights.

On 28 May 2020, Cooley lawyers, Ed Turtle (London) and Megan Donohue (San Diego), joined by MHC partner, Wendy Hederman from Dublin, Ireland, presented a webinar moderated by Cooley's Carol Holley to discuss a range of consumer rights hot topics relevant to products manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Discussions covered:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer rights
  • An update on current and forthcoming EU consumer protection legislation
  • Class actions and collective redress

We are pleased to summarise the key takeaways from the webinar.

COVID-19 and consumer rights

Ed Turtle talked us through how there's been a significant uptick in EU interest in consumer remedies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is leading to increased regulatory scrutiny and potential for consumer claims and complaints.

There are practical issues too. Businesses may have difficulties meeting EU consumer law requirements as a result of COVID-19 - especially obligations in relation to repairs, refunds, online shopping and delivery, meaning it's advisable to review policies and sales contracts in relation to these key provisions in the context of COVID-19.

Changes to the consumer rights landscape in the EU

Pandemic aside, there's been some big changes in the EU consumer rights landscape. With more to come.

The so-called Omnibus Directive is a large overhaul of existing consumer law. The Digital Content Directive and Sale of Goods Directive also bring in important changes. You can read more in our blogs here and here.

Wendy Hederman emphasised the importance of:

  • Preparing for these upcoming changes, including auditing existing processes and understanding the impact of changes and risk areas
  • Monitoring development in key European markets (as these Directives will be implemented in individual Member States)
  • Embracing a consumer friendly approach by moving away from bare minimum compliance to adopting a fully compliant consumer protection approach

Class actions and collective redress

Megan Donohue discussed the basics of the class action regime, contained in US Federal Rule of Procedure 23 and gave examples of particularly high jury awards under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. She emphasised that class actions are embedded in the US Marketplace, which means that at some point, a successful consumer product company will face a class action challenge. Megan advised that US sellers should carefully review their consumer marketing practices for statutory compliance and ensure they can adequately substantiate their advertising claims.

When it comes to group actions, there are upcoming changes in the EU too, with a move towards a collective redress system that would allow qualified entities to bring representative actions on behalf of EU consumers - which you can read about in our blog here.

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.