Consumer Rights Bill

Baroness Murphy

I’ll be honest here, I went into the House yesterday for meetings concerned with forthcoming bills but did not particularly want to go into the Chamber. But as readers will know, no put backside on bench, no attendance fee, so I scoured the day’s agenda for something entertaining. Isn’t that a dreadful admission? But all I could find was the second reading of the Consumer Rights Bill debate which promised to be a worthy but dull consolidation of many other measures that all parties seemed to be agreed on. But like so many debates in the house, the speakers managed to inject this debate with some wit and style and we had quotations from President John Kennedy (Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town) and Magna Carta (Lord Howe of Aberavon, Geoffrey Howe).

The Opposition were more concerned about what was not in the bill rather than what is and I found myself largely in agreement. Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town welcomed much content such as the right of returns and refunds, clarity on repairs, the reperformance of service and protection against small print and welcomed the possible redress for breaches of competition law and some possible collective redress for breaches of consumer law. She drew the House’s attention to the omissions, nothing on secondary ticketing, on the rights of tenants or on double-charging by letting or estate agents, where both the tenant and the landlord or the seller and the buyer are both charged fees. There is nothing to strengthen point-of-sale information, nothing on the rip-off logbook loans, nothing to stop unreasonable charges on booking fees, nothing to help consumers to get a fair deal on car insurance, nothing to ensure that every regulator has the consumer interest at heart, nothing to help prevent micro-businesses being ripped off, and no advocacy to assist consumers to challenge poor service or shoddy goods. There is nothing to ensure that people can continue to receive their invoices or pay bills by post, despite 7 million adults, mostly elderly, still never having used the internet. Surely everyone should not have to accept online-only communication. There is also nothing to tackle that scourge of consumer complaints, nuisance calls. As I sit here on wednesday morning writing this I have had two nuisance calls already, one from a call centre in India selling software and one a ‘silence with whistle’.

Lord Stoneham of Droxford for the LibDems pointed out that we have set different standards for consumer rights in relation to services rather than goods and suggested this need rethinking. The debate later tended to vere off in diffferent directions, some relevant, some less so. Resale of cricket match tickets, payday loans, seizing of illegal tobacco and bugs in software being some of the themes addressed.

Lord Howe of Aberavon speaking right at the end raised an old hobby horse, the Metric System. He said “Almost 800 years ago, Britain’s first charter of human rights, Magna Carta, proclaimed that there should be one measure of wine throughout the whole realm, one measure of corn and one unit of cloth.” Quite right, will someone tell Americans to give up their recipes in cups please?

3 comments for “Consumer Rights Bill

  1. MilesJSD
    02/07/2014 at 3:35 pm

    How far is “Rights” legislation meeting the Consumer’s Staple-Foods, Shelter, and Self-Healthing-Needs & Affordably-Sustainworthy Hows thereto ?

    Come to that, where can we peruse Lists and How-to-Obtain our Basic and Progressive Human Individual Needs ?

    I am told that even the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights has not yet been even 50% implemented in National Constitutional and Legislative Law; how true is this ?

  2. maude elwes
    03/07/2014 at 5:53 am

    Baroness, you have hit the mail on the head with so much of your observation regarding the rights, or absence of them, for the consumer. So much of what you raised irritates me no end, and I do wonder why the public, which includes myself. puts up with this and allows it to be imposed on them by capitulation. As an example, I will choose one you didn’t address that as sheepie we do without thinking about at all is how the power in our pockets works, if used to our own advantage, can remove much of the abuse we suffer through stupidity and lack of responsibility for our own actions.

    Why do we buy tickets to hugely overpriced events that simply show nothing but contempt for our patronage? Football tickets, cheap poorly made sport shirts and paraphernalia sold at ridiculous prices in these venues. Food that doesn’t tell us, in plain language, what it contains and where it came from, origin to table. As well as question why ‘government’ wants to keep this hidden from us? Could it be they know the crap will be left on the shelves should the added poison be flagged up? Or, we find out how unhygienic or inhumane the process before it reaches the shop that sells it is and so we wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole? Why do we allow ourselves to be bullied into paying by direct debit, when we only want to pay once we know we are satisfied with the service we received and or we get what they promised we would before they took our money?

    Why do we not demand internet sellers pay their own postage and packing? After all, they are not having to shell out for building rent to house their goods, utilities to keep it running, staff to look after you and take your money, and the prices are more or less the equivalent to those inside a shop where you can see and feel what you are getting for your cash. Not to mention the cost of this so called postage and packing grows by the hour. Then once you receive the goods, often they don’t come close to the nice picture they sell it to you with. Example, when they call an item 100% linen, yet when you receive it, it simply has a texture to it that resembles linen. Yes, you can return it but the cost and effort to ensure you get a refund is prohibitive and they want it to be just that. So, why do we continue to give our patronage to such chicanery? Why does the consumer have such low esteem and expectation when spending their hard earned cash that makes millionaires of the seller?

    Another bug in my ear is, the gym that over sells and doesn’t have the room or the equipment to give adequate service to their clients, yet, again, the old direct debit trick. You go on paying even when you are packed like sardines in the rowing room, steam room or swimming pool. I joined a quite famous place in central London where on signing up it was not only enjoyably relaxing, had ample room to swim and exercise, but was worth the money. As time went by it became ridiculously packed. The pool was so overcrowded all you could do was get in into it and stand as if on the tube at rush hour, whilst wondering if the persons with bare skin slapped up against yours was going to tinker with your privates and you would have no way of knowing who it was. Needless to say, I never returned again, but, getting free of the payment for it was a nightmare. Only the threat of a heavy compensatory lawsuit, which would advertise their fraud, finally brought them to their senses.

    Really the only answer is to stop buying. Just leave our money untouched in the bank and see how quick change comes about. Both via government legislation and a realisation by the vendor that the customer pays their wages and that same customer deserves maximum respect.

    And no it wasn’t awful. Simply human. Why would anyone want to sit through hours of tedious unproductive speaking put on for show not substance? Only a numbskull would submit to that.

  3. tizres
    07/07/2014 at 9:21 pm

    Your final sentence resonated to a point, given the variety of cup sizes available (stop sniggering at the back) exceeds any measure of sanity.

    Another mystical experience on offer to consumers is a visit to a hairdresser, where pricing depends on a mixture of age and gender: how on earth do they still get away with this nonsense? Given recent history of gender equalisation, such as driver’s insurance where women’s prices were hiked, and state pensions where women’s minimum age was hiked, surely we should accord similar privileges to men seeking a trim?

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