The CRA 2015 sets forth a framework that combines in one place key consumer rights which cover contracts for goods, services, digital content and the law with regard to unfair terms in consumer contracts. Significant new protections for consumers along with measures intended to lower regulatory burdens for businesses. Furthermore, for consumers and small and medium sized enterprises (“SMEs”), it has become easier and simpler to challenge anti-competitive behaviour through the Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”).
Primarily, one of the main aim of this Act is to achieve “a simple, coherent framework of consumer legislation by consolidating and simplifying existing law”. Not only that, it also aspires to modernise the law in order to be in line with the developments in the digital landscape (such as online streaming) and to implement various provisions of the EU Consumer Rights Directive (e.g. pointing out the consumer’s cancellation rights for relevant contracts concluded off-premises or through distance trading).
The Act is applicable to all contracts between traders (defined as “a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft, or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader’s name or on the trader’s behalf”) and consumers (defined as “an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession”). This amended definition of a consumer includes individuals who enter contracts for a mixture of business and personal reasons, as it is wider than existing definitions found in UK and EU law. The words “wholly or mainly” (which are not present in previous legislation, nor in the EU Consumer Rights Directive) increase consumer protection to incorporate contracts where individuals obtain goods or services for business and personal use (given that personal use holds sway). Many commentators have exposed this subtle expansion (over and above both existing UK law and the EU wide regime), however in reality, it is hard to conceive many scenarios at which point the distinction will emerge. The new definition of a trader extends the definition of supplier (previously found in the SoGA) to specifically provide that traders continue to be liable when acting via a third party (e.g., agency relationships). Government departments and public sector authorities are both caught by this definition. Moreover, it is important to note that the CRA 2015 is focused exclusively on consumers’ economic rights. The safety of consumer products remains mainly governed by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and the Consumer Protection Act 1987.