Robert Troy, T.D., Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation today announced the public consultation on the General Scheme of the Consumer Rights Bill 2021 to consolidate and modernise consumer protection legislation.

The Scheme, which is being published today for consultation, represents the most far-reaching reform of consumer law in decades. It will make consumer protection legislation easier to navigate, simpler to understand and strengthen protections for consumers. It will also create clearer rules for businesses and assist them in dealings with consumers.

The Bill proposes to replace a number of overlapping and complicated provisions in primary, secondary and European legislation currently in place and provides for a number of enhanced statutory protections for consumers, including:

  • New statutory rights and remedies in contracts for digital content (e.g. audio and video files, computer games) and digital services (e.g. streaming services, cloud computing, social media), and includes contracts in which the consumer provides personal data to the supplier of the digital content or digital service rather than paying a monetary price.
  • Strengthened consumer rights relating to the quality, fitness for purpose and other aspects of services and, for the first time, statutory remedies for consumers where the services supplied by providers do not comply with those quality and other standards.
  • Stronger transparency requirements for terms and conditions in standard form consumer contracts, and for the first time a ‘black-list’ of contract terms that are always unfair.
  • New enforcement powers for the CCPC where traders do not provide the remedies or reimbursement to which consumers are entitled under the Act.

Making the announcement today, Minister Troy said, “This Bill represents the most substantial reform of consumer contract law in forty years. It is not just a modernisation of consumer protection legislation but also, by consolidating a number of existing pieces of consumer protection legislation, makes the legislation in this area easier to navigate for consumers and also makes it more clear to businesses what their obligations are to consumers.”

The Bill also gives effect to the provisions of two new EU Directives on contracts for the sale of goods and contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services. Consumers will now enjoy similar rights for their downloaded content as they would have enjoyed with CDs and DVDs.  Furthermore, new ground is being broken as the Directive relating to digital content and digital services applies to contracts where the consumer provides personal data to the trader as well as to contracts where the consumer pays the price of the digital content or digital service.

“Current legislation does not adequately capture the reality of consumers everyday transactions regarding digital content and services and so this legislation will ensure consumer protections are enshrined in law.

“The Bill also gives more enforcement powers to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.  For example, the Bill provides for the CCPC to take enforcement action against traders who refuse or fail to provide consumers with a remedy for faulty goods or services to which consumers are entitled under the Act, and against traders who fail or refuse to make a reimbursement to which consumers are entitled under the Act.”

The Minister concluded by urging businesses, consumers and other interested parties to respond to the consultation on the Scheme of the proposed Bill.

“I am committed to ensuring that consumer legislation must first and foremost give effective protections to consumers, I am conscious that it must do so in a balanced way. Given the multitude of consumer transactions that occur on a daily basis, I therefore wish to invite all relevant stakeholders, businesses and consumers alike, to submit their views to this public consultation. We want to hear how the proposed legislative provisions would affect the parties to consumer transactions across different sectors of the economy and will consider carefully all views submitted in response to the consultation.”

The consultation, which opens today, will close on Wednesday 30th June, with the target for enactment of the new legislation by Q4 2021.