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The Consumer Rights Directive (CRD) 2011/83/EU was adopted in October 2011 and published in the Official Journal on 22 November 2011. Member states must implement the Directive by December 2013 and apply the legislation to consumer contracts from 13 June 2014. The aim of the Directive is to give consumers improved protection when they purchase goods and services across borders. The CRD does not cover all consumer rights; it focuses on simplifying and harmonising rules in a limited number of key areas, including:

• pre-contract information rights (in particular, on costs and terms of delivery for distance and off-premises contracts but also for on-premises contracts);

• traders obtaining the express consent of consumers for any payments which are additional to the main price for the goods or services provided under the contract;

• cancellation rights for distance and off-premises contracts;

• prohibition of excessive surcharges for consumers’ use of payment cards and telephone hotlines to the trader; and

• clarification of the cancellation rights and obligations of buyers and sellers of digital products

The majority of the provisions of the CRD are ‘maximum harmonisation’. This means that, subject to certain limited derogations, the UK’s implementing law cannot go beyond, or below, the level of consumer protection which the provision in the Directive aims to ensure. In respect of those few areas where application of the CRD is discretionary, the UK Government published a consultation Paper in August 2012, ‘Enhancing consumer confidence by modernising consumer law in relation to the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive’. On 19 September 2011, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) outlined its proposal that all existing UK consumer protection laws and regulations should be consolidated, together with the requirements of the new CRD, into a single Consumer Bill of Rights.

This note provides a summary of the background to the CRD and an outline of its main provisions. It also considers how the Directive will be implemented in the UK and its implication for existing legislation. Detailed information on the Government’s proposal for a new Consumer Bill of Rights is provided in a separate Library note, SN/HA/6588 dated 21 March 2013.

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