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Consumer Protection

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Consumer protection laws find their origins in the laws of contract and tort. One of the most famous early tort cases was Donoghue v Stephenson in which Mrs Donoghue drank a bottle of ginger beer containing a decomposed snail. Mrs Donoghue did not have a contractual relationship with the drink manufacturer Mr Stephenson and the snail was not visible through the opaque bottle she drank from but the court held that Mr Stephenson had breached his duty of care towards Mrs Stephenson.

Although the court could not have envisaged it at the time, this seminal case is often considered the dawn of product liability and consumer protection law.

Consumer Protection Today

Today consumer protection legislation is found in a bewildering array of common law, domestic legislation and European legislation. With information readily available online, consumers are increasingly aware of their rights and what means they have to enforce them.

To avoid falling foul of the law all sellers, from casual traders selling trinkets on eBay to fully fledged businesses selling goods or services to consumers, should also ensure that they understand their obligations. This will not only provide protection from a slew of potential legal problems but also makes sound business sense.

Legislation Awareness

Here are some of the major areas of legislation that sellers should be aware of:

  1. Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
  2. Sale of Goods Act 1979
  3. Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
  4. Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and Trade Descriptions Act 1968
  5. General Product Safety Regulations 2005
  6. Consumer Protection Act 1987
  7. Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971
  8. Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000
  9. Competition Act 1988
  10. Weights and Measures Act 1985

In addition, sellers should remember their obligations under the common law in respect of misrepresentation and contract.


The extent of the legal obligations that arise in relation to a particular seller will vary depending upon the type of business, the type of product being sold - whether it is goods or services, and the sort of customers he hopes to sell to. Sellers who sell purely to other businesses will be subject to less stringent regulations than sellers who sell to businesses and consumers or consumers only, for example.

Rollingsons recommends sellers seek appropriate advice to ensure that the potential risks can be managed effectively and that appropriate terms and conditions are drafted to protect both parties.

If you need advice in relation to any commercial issues Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can help you; for more information please contact James Crighton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 484 8.