The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
These Regulations came into force on 26th May 2008.
These regulations are intended to make various sales and marketing abuses criminal offences.
The regulations ban all forms of unfair trading basically anything that prevents the average consumer from a making free and properly informed buying decision.
The regulations also cover aggressive selling techniques, and practices that deceive or are likely to deceive consumers about any products and services provided. This includes all marketing of a product or service, (including comparative advertising) which causes confusion with any other products, trade marks, trade names or other distinguishing marks of a competitor. For example, advertising for sale a "Dysonn" vacuum cleaner where the intention is to deceive consumers into thinking it is an actual Dyson product.
The Regulations are drafted in such a way that individual abuses or scams do not have to be listed to be covered. This means that all new abuses or scams will automatically be covered by the Regulations.
The abuses targeted include the following:
1. Claiming to belong to or follow a code of conduct, when in fact they do not.
2. Displaying a trust mark or other mark when not actually a member.
3. Claiming a code of conduct is endorsed by a public or other body, including a trade body, when not the case.
4. Claiming compliance with a code of conduct when do not.
5. "Bait advertising" - offering a product at a special price, when do not have enough in stock to cover the offer period. (This is something that some supermarkets have done to get customers into stores. For example offering a dvd at a low price, but only carrying a small stock.)
6. Stating that an offer is for a very limited period only or only available on particular terms for a limited period, when it is not.
7. Stating or giving the impression that certain goods can be sold legally, when they are in fact illegal.
8. Presenting various statutory consumer rights as special terms offered by the trader.
9. Falsely claiming that a product can cure an illness or condition.
10. "Bait & Switch" - promoting a product for sale and then refusing to sell it, take orders for it, or showing only a defective version of the product and then subsequently offering another product - frequently at a higher price.
11. Selling products based upon scare tactics, for example this product protects you from xw&z, if you don't buy it the following could happen to you.
12. Requesting unnecessary paperwork from a consumer relating to their insurance claim or failing to respond to letters from them regarding their claim.
13. "Advertorials" - where a trader has paid for an advert or product placement, which has been placed within editorial content.
14. Selling fake goods in a way that is intended to confuse consumers. For example, fake perfumes meant to look like the original. Or selling a product that does work, but which copies much from another existing products, so as to confuse consumers. For example using similar packaging, design and colours to an existing product.
15. Closing down sales that keep going on, where the trader is not in fact moving premises or closing-down. Some well-known high street sports retailers have previously employed this tactic on a regular basis.
16. Providing inaccurate information relating to a product or the availability, with the intention of inducing a consumer to buy it. For example, stating that a product is in short supply and that the retailer is the only one with it in stock.
17. Enclosing an invoice, receipt or similar document with a brochure or other documents to give the consumer the impression that they have already purchased the product, when not the case.
18. A trader who pretends to be a consumer or claims or creates the impression that they are not in fact a trader. For example, a car salesman pretending to be a customer and talking-up a car of offer in front of real customers.
19. Advertising to children - any advert which asks the child to buy or asks the child's parents to buy for the child.
20. Pyramid schemes.
21. Claiming that buying a product will help your chances of winning a particular competition.
22. Offering a competition prize, but not awarding it to anyone.
23. Claiming that a product is completely free when there are hidden charges, other than the cost of the consumer responding and reasonable delivery charges.
24. Claiming a consumer has won, when there is nothing to win or they have to incur costs or pay a "fee" to claim the "prize".
25. Pressured sales tactics, such as creating the impression that a consumer cannot leave the trader's premises or shop until the sale is completed.
26. Visiting a consumer in their home and refusing to leave or returning when asked not to. An exception to this would be where the consumer owes the trader money and the trader is seeking payment, this would allow the trader to return to seek payment. However, the trader would not be allowed to force their way into the property.
27. Pestering a consumer by phone, fax or email. Except where the trader is seeking payment under an existing contract.
28. Making a consumer feel guilty if they do not purchase. For example, the salesperson stating that they need to meet their targets or they will be fired.
29. "Inertia selling" - demanding payment for a product sent to the consumer, which the consumer did not order or request. Or seeking the return of the product. The exception is where the product is sent as a substitute for another properly ordered product.
30. Providing after-sales service or support in a language different to the one used during the sales process. For example, providing English sales support, but all subsequent support is provided in German only.
31. Creating the false impression that after-sales support can be provided in a language different to the one used during the sale. For example stating that customers can receive Europe-wide technical support, not matter where they are based.
Breaches of the Regulations carry a fine of up to £5,000 in the magistrates court. In the crown court a fine or imprisonment for up to two years, or both.