Consumer rights extended to apps

Consumers who download or stream music, videos, and apps are to be given statutory rights and remedies for the first time.

The proposals are part of a series of planned reforms of consumer law here — dubbed by the Government as “the most far-reaching reform of consumer law in decades”.

The legislation, which was published yesterday for consultation, will make consumer rights clear to consumers and businesses alike by replacing the overlapping and confusing combination of primary, secondary, and European legislation.

Under the proposed legislation, there will be a ban on expiry dates for gift cards and vouchers, while statutory rights and remedies will be introduced for consumers who download or stream games, music, videos, apps, and other digital content.

Rights for consumers purchasing services will be strengthened, while consumers will have a right for the first time to have a substandard service remedied or refunded .

A standard 30-day period in which consumers could return faulty goods and get a full refund will be brought in to replace current unclear and uncertain rules on this time period.

Consumers who acquire goods as gifts will have the same rights as the purchasers of the goods, while the rules on unfair contract terms will apply to negotiated as well as standard form contract terms. An expanded list of contract terms presumed to be unfair will also be introduced.

New information rights for consumers in transactions for healthcare, social services, and gambling, including price information for GP and other medical consultations will also be rolled out.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said the new legislation was needed to correct “a basic imbalance” between consumers and retailers and service providers.

“The changes we are proposing today are aimed at doing two things. Firstly to improve consumer rights in purchasing online goods and services, which obviously accounts for an increasing proportion of consumer transactions. And secondly to clear up the anomalies and gaps in consumer rights that have grown up through years of overlapping legislation at primary, secondary and European level. The existing law has too many rules in some areas and too few or none at all in other areas,” he said.

Mr Bruton pointed to the example of a consumer whose car breaks down because of a fault with the car currently having two separate sets of remedies “that are neither consistent nor certain”. However, a person whose car breaks down because it was serviced poorly has no clear, readily accessible remedy.

Mr Bruton also pointed out that a consumer who buys a film on DVD enjoys the protection of consumer legislation, while one who streams or downloads the same film does not.

“While consumer legislation must first and foremost give effective protections to consumers, it has to do so in a balanced and workable way. This is not easily done because of the great number and diversity of consumer transactions.”

“We want to hear how the proposed legislative provisions would affect the parties to consumer transactions across different sectors of the economy and will consider carefully all views submitted in response to the consultation,” he said.

The new Consumer Rights Bill is part of a programme of reform by the department.

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