Irish consumer and sales law is to be radically reformed to meet the needs of the 21st century consumer market. Much of the law in this area dates back to the 19th century and a Sales Law Review Group established by the Government recently recommended a major overhaul of the legislation. The Government intends to implement the Group’s recommendations by the introduction of a comprehensive piece of legislation which will consolidate, reform and modernise current law. The new legislation is expected to include:
- A requirement that receipts be issued in consumer transactions
- A rule that consumers have the right to reject faulty goods within 30 days
- A rule that goods must be of satisfactory quality (replacing the concept of merchantable quality)
- An increase in the time period during which consumers can withdraw from a distance contract (e.g. internet purchase) from 7 to 14 days
- The introduction of pro-consumer improvements in laws relating to services, including a rule that sellers cannot exclude certain terms from consumer contracts, and strengthened guarantees as to the quality of a service provided to a consumer
Where possible, certain minor reforms will be made by statutory instrument as early as next year, in advance of the more comprehensive legislation. These reforms are expected to include:
- A ban on sellers charging payment fees greater than the cost of processing payments
- A ban on imposing additional charges on consumers by means of pre-ticked boxes (additional charges will only be permitted where express consent is given)
- A rule regulating the use of small print and requiring certain minimum font sizes and particular font colours
The overhaul of consumer law will not only benefit consumers, but will also provide much needed clarity for businesses in what is widely regarded as a complex area of law in need of modernisation.
Contributed by John Magee.
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