Although many of the rules relating to consumer rights are based on EU directives, reassuringly, most are also enshrined in UK law. The standards required of goods, services, and digital content, and the remedies if they are breached, as consolidated in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, are a mix of EU and domestic provisions.
On the day the UK leaves the EU, the European Union Withdrawal Act will come into force. This act will end the supremacy of EU law in the UK going forward but will also retain existing EU law. This means that the laws made over the past 40 years while the UK was part of the EU will be carried over, unless the UK government decides to change the law.
So, many of your rights will stay the same even after we’ve left the EU – until they are updated, removed or overhauled by Parliament in the future.
There are a number of specific implications of a no-deal Brexit to consumers, including the ability for UK consumers to bring a claim against a member state in the UK and the withdrawal of access to the EU Commission’s online dispute resolution platform.
The government has taken steps to ensure that after exit UK consumers will retain the protections they currently have when buying from UK businesses.
As the UK will no longer be a Member State, there may be an impact on the extent to which UK consumers are protected when buying goods and services in the remaining Member States. UK consumers will also no longer be able to use the UK courts effectively to seek redress from EU based traders, and if a UK court does make a judgement, the enforcement of that judgement will be more difficult as we will no longer be part of the EU.
The previously mandatory EU alternative dispute resolution and online dispute resolution regime would no longer apply to cross boarder sales between UK/EU customers and businesses. UK consumers and businesses would still be able to obtain redress through other alternative dispute resolution forums in the UK, but these would not be suitable to resolve cross-border disputes.
Going forward, as a consumer you should always check the terms of consumer protection offered by the seller. You may need to seek redress through the courts of that state rather than UK courts if something goes wrong.
If you are a business, you will need to consider the laws of the relevant member state you are selling into. Depending upon the risks identified, you may need to update your business terms and conditions to provide great protection to your business. You would still need to refer consumers to mandatory alternative dispute resolution forums. Your business website and terms and conditions of sale will need to be updated to ensure that your customers are not misled as to where they can bring a claim or initiate alternative dispute resolution.
The likelihood of a no-deal Brexit is uncertain and further discussions and decisions are due to be made this month.
In summary, after Brexit, it would seem that consumers will continue to enjoy similar rights against suppliers in the UK as they did before Brexit, but there will be no EU-wide cross-border dimension, in the absence of specific agreement.
For any further advice or information please contact a member of our Litigation Team on 01388 604691.