A Fair Deal for Consumers?

6 June, 2008

Company directors, managers and business owners face unlimited fines or even prison under new consumer protection legislation prohibiting a wide range of “unfair commercial practices”.

Company directors, managers and business owners face unlimited fines or even prison under new consumer protection legislation prohibiting a wide range of “unfair commercial practices”.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 implement the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, and came into force on Monday 26th May 2008. They apply to virtually all interactions that any business has with consumers, whether before, after or at the point of sale. They are also likely to affect professional firms, advertising agencies and other providers of services to consumer-facing clients, even if they themselves do not deal with consumers.

The Regulations extend criminal liability not only to the making of false statements about goods or services, but also to presenting true information in a “deceptive” manner, or omitting to provide information that might affect a consumer’s buying decision.

The full version of this bulletin is available here, but the main points include:

Prohibition of unfair commercial practices

The Regulations prohibit all “unfair commercial practices” … 

Professional diligence

Traders in a particular field of activity are expected to live up to the “standard of special skill and care”  … 

Misleading actions

The Regulations set out the matters about which information must be true and not misleading  …

Misleading omissions

 …  but the Regulations then go a step further, by making it a criminal offence to “omit” or “hide” material information, or to present such information in a manner which is “unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely”. 

Aggressive practices

… taking advantage of people who have suffered a “specific misfortune” that might impair their judgment. 

Inherently unfair practices

The Regulations include a list of 31 activities that are considered to be unfair in all circumstances!  

Criminal penalties

The maximum penalty for breaching the Regulations is two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine.  Advertising agencies and other providers of services to consumer-facing businesses may also face criminal liability.  

To read this report in full, or for  further information links and guidance, click here to view the online version.

Reviewed in 2015