New consumer laws to crack down on fake reviews of businesses
New laws aimed at strengthening consumer rights and tackling fake business reviews have been unveiled by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar.
Varadkar received Government approval to publish the Consumer Rights Bill 2022 on Tuesday.
The new law consolidates and modernises consumer law and gives consumers new protections.
The Tánaiste said: “This new law is good for consumers and good for business. Most businesses are responsible and treat their customers fairly when things go wrong. For those that don’t, it can give them an unfair advantage over their competitors. This new law consolidates a lot of existing legislation and updates it, to make it fit for the modern, digital age.
“For the first time, we’re extending consumer rights over digital goods and services, meaning you will have the same rights over anything you stream or download as you do over a good or service you’d buy in a shop. We’re also cracking down on aggressive commercial practices, such as a company leaving fake reviews on its own or competitor’s services.”
For the first time, consumers will have the same rights and protections over digital content and digital services e.g. streaming, downloads, cloud products, as traditional products and services.
New digital rights include: the right to full refund, exchange or repair when good or service is not as described or not fit for purpose. Consumers will be entitled to any upgrades to the product or service that are needed to ensure the goods continue to work as expected and agreed, free of charge.
New prohibited, ‘black-listed’ terms and conditions which are automatically regarded as unfair when put in a contract. Examples include any condition which allows a trader to unilaterally change the terms of a contract, or any provision which would indemnify a trader from harm caused by a product or service
Businesses will also be required to set out clearly a description of the goods or services being provided, the total price of the item and the cost of delivery before entering into a contract with a consumer.
Companies who engage in misleading and aggressive commercial practices, such as fake reviews, could be subject to fines imposed by the Courts following enforcement action taken by the CCPC.
Instead of just exchange, refund or repair, customers will also be entitled to agree a price reduction on faulty goods, if that suits them better. They will also be entitled to withhold payment for goods partially paid for if they are not satisfied with the quality of the item received. Any form of redress must be free of charge and must be carried out as soon as possible.
Welcoming the publication of the Bill, Minister of State with responsibility for Consumer Protection legislation, Robert Troy TD said: “This Bill represents the biggest overhaul of consumer rights law in 40 years. The proposed legislation modernises and consolidates existing consumer protection law and significantly strengthens the enforcement powers of our agencies responsible for ensuring consumer rights such as the CCPC and ComReg. For example, the CCPC will now be able to take enforcement action against traders who refuse or fail to provide consumers with a remedy for faulty goods or services and against traders who fail or refuse to make a reimbursement to which consumers are entitled under the Act.
“Once enacted this legislation will strengthen protections for consumers, while also creating clearer rules for businesses ensuring the market works fairly and effectively for both.”
The Consumer Rights Bill 2022 will be published shortly and will then make its way through all stages in the Oireachtas. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment has completed pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill.
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