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The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD announced this week that a new Consumer Rights Bill which is being published for consultation represents “the most far reaching reform of consumer law in decades”.A full copy of the press release is available here.

Amongst the new rights to be bestowed upon consumers according to the press release include:

Expiry dates – a ban on expiry dates for gift cards and vouchers;

Downloads –statutory rights and remedies for the first time for consumers who download or stream games, music, videos, apps and other digital content;

Services – strengthened rights for consumers purchasing services, including a right for the first time to have a substandard service remedied or refunded

Goods – in respect of goods, a standard 30 day period in which consumers could return faulty goods and get a full refund in place of the current unclear and uncertain rules on this time period;

Gifts – consumers who acquire goods as gifts to have the same rights as the purchasers of the goods;

Unfair terms – the rules on unfair contract terms to apply to negotiated as well as standard form contract terms and an expanded list of contract terms presumed to be unfair;

Information rights – new information rights for consumers in transactions for healthcare, social services and gambling, including price information for GP and other medical consultations.

Minister Bruton in announcing the changes stated:

There is a basic imbalance in contracts between consumers and the people they purchase goods and services from – that is why we are constantly seeking to improve our laws in this area to provide better rights for people in a changing environment.

“The changes we are proposing today are aimed at doing two things. Firstly to improve consumer rights in purchasing online goods and services, which obviously accounts for an increasing proportion of consumer transactions. And secondly to clear up the anomalies and gaps in consumer rights that have grown up through years of overlapping legislation at primary, secondary and European level. The existing law has too many rules in some areas and too few or none at all in other areas.

“For example, a consumer whose car breaks down because of a fault with the car currently has two separate sets of remedies that are neither consistent nor certain , while one whose car breaks down because it was serviced poorly has no clear, readily accessible remedy. A consumer who buys a film on DVD enjoys the protection of consumer legislation, while one who streams or downloads the same film does not

For those interested in reading more, the press release sets out a more detailed account of the background to, and the rationale for, the main proposals in the present Scheme which can be found in the Department’s Consultation Paper on the Reform of the Law on Consumer Contract Rights which was published in August 2014 accessible at http://www.djei.ie/publications/commerce/2014/crbconsultationpaperaug2014.pdf

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