The Government has published guidance for local authority Trading Standards services and other public enforcers on how to use the ‘enhanced consumer measures’ (ECMs) introduced through the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the increased range of enforcement actions available under the 2015 Act would “help enforcers achieve better redress for consumers who have experienced a breach of consumer law”.
The guidance notes that the main formal sanction for dealing with the most serious breaches would remain criminal prosecution. Enforcers can seek a civil injunction (interdict in Scotland) under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 against infringements of consumer protection legislation.
DBIS says ECMs have widened the orders that the enforcer can seek in the civil courts, giving the flexibility to seek orders aimed at achieving one or more of:
- redress for consumers who have suffered loss from breaches of consumer law;
- remedies from traders who have breached consumer law to improve their compliance and reduce the likelihood of future breaches;
- remedies to give consumers more information so they can exercise greater choice and help improve the functioning of the market for consumers and other businesses.
The guidance notes that the measures should “always be just, reasonable and proportionate”.
“Details of possible measures are not included in the legislation,” it adds. “This ensures that the enforcer or the court retain the flexibility to find the most appropriate measure or measures to deal with a business that has broken the law. It may also take away the flexibility for a person who is subject to enforcement orders or undertakings to put forward their own measures, which could be deemed suitable, to the court or enforcer.”
The guidance comments that whilst criminal courts have the power to award compensation to victims of crime, the experience is that often criminal prosecutions do not lead to all consumers who have suffered loss receiving compensation.
The DBIS guidance covers:
- The Enterprise Act 2002: enforcement orders; undertakings; what has changed.
- Scope: when they can be used; how the measures should be used; the extended consultation period;
- The measures – redress, compliance and information: the redress measures; making an offer of redress; measures in the collective interest of consumers; terminating contracts; the compliance measures; consumer information measures;
- Roles and responsibilities: the enforcer; redress measures; the business.
- Definitions: what is just, reasonable and proportionate?
A copy of the guidance can be viewed here.