Consumer Rights Directive
The Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU was approved by the European Parliament in October 2011. The CRD must be incorporated into national law by 13 December 2013 with provisions coming into force on 13 June 2014.
The CRD is a general law that will impact on all sales of goods and services (with some limited exceptions). The CRD’s focus is on:
- Ensuring transparency of information, in particular with regard to pre-contractual information for distance and off-premises contracts (but also for other goods and services contracts)
- Ensuring there is express consent from the consumer for any additional payments
- Cancellation rights for distance and off-premises contracts
- Prohibiting excessive fees for paying the trader
- Prohibiting excessive phone charges for consumers contacting traders about existing contracts.
The CRD does not apply at all to package holidays; the cooling off period does not apply to any travel services. Some parts of the CRD apply to the sale of passenger transport services, accommodation and car rental.
Most of the provisions in the CRD are maximum harmonisation measures and this largely prohibits “gold plating” i.e. the UK Government cannot legislate over and above the EU legislation. However, the Government did consider elaborating on the wording where a “copy out” approach would lead to unacceptable uncertainty or lack of clarity for businesses and consumers.
In Autumn 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) ran two consultations on transposing the CRD into UK law. Both could be considered as “gold plating” to inter alia package travel:
- Applying the ‘express consent for additional payments’ provision (e.g. banning pre-ticked boxes which can add ancillary services to purchases) and requiring access to basic rate customer help lines (e.g. no premium rate numbers).
- Banning credit and debit card charges to consumers from being higher than the cost borne by the trader of processing these payments. The Government is seeing to bring this part in earlier than June 2014.
BIS has said that it intends to publish a government response to both in early 2013.