LAST WORD: Open house for consumer complaints

14 Nov, 14

CEO of the KBSA, Graham Ball weighs into the Consumer Bill debate

Whilst improving consumer rights must be a good thing, there is a danger of tipping the scales too far towards that objective – at the expense of the retailer. The Consumer Rights Bill, currently on its way through the House of Lords, will enshrine into law rights that could cost UK business millions of pounds. 

READ: MD of Triton Lorna Fellowes comment on revisions to the Consumer Rights Bill

The new 30-day rule will (not could) result in rogue consumers having a field day with their retailers, which will cost businesses up and down the UK many millions of pounds, and the impact on the SME sector in particular could be disastrous. If satisfactory replacement of faulty goods cannot be achieved within the 30 day period, or if another ‘fault’ appears, the contract could be cancelled by the consumer within six months of receipt of the goods. Can you imagine the impact of that on the kbb sector, where contracts can be worth thousands of pounds? It’s not the cost of a suit or a dress is it?

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Despite us not wishing to malign all consumers, I do believe there are enough ‘rogue’ consumers to cause substantial financial damage to UK businesses, and particularly the SME sector. I guess it’s the ‘one size fits all’ aspect that has not been thought through sufficiently, even though the consultation process received inputs from three distinct groups – namely, suppliers, consumer groups and professional bodies.

This legislation is of course, all part of the EU plan for harmonisation of standards which makes me somewhat sceptical, anyway! During the initial consultation in 2012, there were only 46 responses – does that sound like apathy or what? We must ensure that all retailers are made aware of the final details of the Bill (currently planned to be enacted for implementation of October 1, 2015) so they fully understand how consumers may react when things do go wrong.

We now live in an era where the compensation culture has developed into a multi-million pound industry (yes, it is now an industry supported by endless TV adverts telling you how easy and painless it is), and fuelled by the activities of our banking sector, who have been forced to put billions of pounds aside for compensation for malpractice over the years, and this is yet another opportunity for the ‘rogues’ to win.

I fear the house door has been left open.