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Give online consumers the same protections as on the high street

Last updated: 11:06am 9 October 2018

We will give consumers the same protections in online markets as they have on the high street.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.78

Our verdict

This policy promises to match online consumer protection to that found on the high street. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations offer UK citizens protection for almost all purchases. They guarantee, for example that goods must be:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for particular purpose
  • as described

Those pieces of legislation operate in conjunction with the European Commission’s Consumer Rights Directive which guarantees the same consumer rights across all European Union member states. The UK’s planned exit from the EU is likely to have legal ramifications here.

The borderless nature of the internet adds to the degree of complexity. In April 2018, the government launched a consultation, the Modernising Consumer Markets green paper, which ran until July 4 2018, seeking views on:

  • getting consumers better deals and better service in utilities markets
  • helping consumers benefit from their data and remain protected when they buy and sell online
  • how to improve the system of alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
  • how to support local and national enforcers to work together to protect consumers

At the same time a government research paper was published which looked at dispute resolution involving consumers. Then, in May 2018, the Data Protection Act 2018 came into force, providing people with greater control over their personal data.

The government has published research on resolving consumer disputes with traders, legislated to better protect personal data, and is currently analysing the feedback from its consultation on regulatory, competition and enforcement regimes. With so much going on, this is definitely a policy ‘in progress’. We’ll be looking for legislation targeting consumer protection in online markets before we move this to ‘done’. Follow this policy for the latest developments.

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There's always room for debate

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