The 2015 Consumer Rights Act comes into force today bringing a raft of changes, from making it easier for shoppers to get a refund for a faulty app download, to paving the way for big US style class-actions.
If a company is found to have breached competition law, by fixing prices, or abusing its dominant position in the market, any and all consumers, or smaller businesses, affected will automatically be signed up to a group antitrust action, and eligible for any damages, unless they opt-out.
The Act also gives shoppers new legal rights when digital products are faulty. If downloaded apps, e-books or music are faulty, the Consumer Rights Act will entitle Britons to either repairs or a replacement.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, welcomed the update:
Consumer law was crying out to be brought up to date to cope with the requirements and demands of today’s shoppers.
Companies will now be far more exposed to customer litigation, as cases which were too small to bring before individually, will now be viable and potentially, very costly.
Francesca Richmond, senior associate in dispute resolutions at Baker & Mckenzie, told City A.M.:
The UK has traditionally been wary of US mass-litigation culture. This legislation does not change that. You might not see a surge now, but certainly a steady growth in claims in the future.
The changes are part of a Europe-wide standardisation, and could impact on countries across the EU that operate here, Nicholas Heaton, head of competition litigation at Hogan Lovells, said.