Last month I submitted an assignment for my Business Law masters. The question related to unfair terms, exclusion clauses in consumer contracts and the developments of the law in regards to added protection.

As consumers, over time we are becoming more and more protected. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 became law on 1 October 2015.

The reason for this introduction was to simplify, strengthen and modernise the law, giving consumers clearer rights and also to highlight to business owners what their obligations are under the law. It is estimated that UK consumers spend £90 billion a month and so with this level of spending it is imperative that both consumers and businesses should understand their legal rights and obligations, and having a law understood by all is the closest we will get to that.

Has it done that? To a certain extent … However as consumers it is impossible to get away from those words ‘terms and conditions apply,’ whether we are booking hotel rooms, ordering extra perks on our holidays or even entering a competition. We hear it on the radio, or read it on apps, the internet or application forms.

In reality it is obvious that they are not always read, they can be lengthy and time consuming especially when the main aim is to confirm a booking or purchase the product you are interested in.

The Consumer Detriment survey concluded that over 60% of people almost never look at terms and conditions and will just tick a box or sign their acceptance without even glancing at them or acknowledging any unusual terms that might be hidden within. This was evidenced in July 2017 when 22,000 people found themselves legally bound to 1000 hours of community service, including  cleaning of toilets at festivals, scraping chewing gum off the streets and manually relieving sewer blockages.

Even if the 22,000 had read the t&cs it is likely that this clause would have still been missed. The lengthy terms full of jargon, written in small print it is likely consumers would skim through them at best and there is no guarantee that they fully understood them or understand the impact of any negative terms in the contract. Even if the terms are clear, consumers can be far too engrossed in the item they are purchasing that they overlook and are not interested in any terms of a contract. I write terms and conditions for a living and I still do not read all the terms to a contract.

For example I go to Ibiza in 6 weeks, I booked the flights and hotel separately I have no clue what the terms state, however I am clear that there is a no cancellation policy (the law says that these terms need to be made clear at the time of booking) and I’m not going to cancel anyway right?? …hmmmm.

What if the flight gets cancelled for example? I would lose the money for the hotel …. and this brings me on to the most recent piece of legislation regarding consumer protection.

Funnily enough another EU directive (damn those powers that be, trying to protect us) came into force on 1st July 2018. Now online travel agents must take responsibility for each aspect of a holiday they sell in a single transaction. Previously the likes of On The Beach hid an exclusion clause in their terms that stated they acted as a “booking agent, and accepted no responsibility or liability for the acts or omissions of, or services provided by Travel Suppliers”, I was not aware of this … so this is great news for consumers.

The EU Package Directive will continue to apply once the UK leaves the EU ….. happy travelling 🙂