Jersey lawmakers to consider new consumer protection regulation

Jersey lawmakers have proposed new legislation that aims to boost the legal protections that exist to protect the island’s consumers from “sharp trading practices”, including “pressure selling, misleading information and hidden charges”.

The new Draft Consumer Protection (Unfair Practices) law, which was filed with the States of Jersey at the end of December by the island’s Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture department, is aimed at bringing Jersey into line with almost identical consumer protection laws currently in force in the UK and the European Union, a spokesperson for Jersey’s Trading Standards office said.

Although it isn’t known how long the lawmaking process will take, it could come into force as early as sometime in the second quarter, the spokesperson added.

A debate on the matter is currently set for 20 February. Depending on the outcome of this, the proposed legislation would go to the Privvy Council for review before becoming law.

The new law would ban 31 “unfair practices” outright, while putting in place “tighter controls and penalties – including prosecution – to protect both consumers and businesses from unscrupulous traders”, according to a statement on the States of Jersey website.

Under the proposed legislation, businesses found guilty of breaking the new law could face prosecution and a £10,000 fine.

Among the unfair practices the legislation aims to formally make illegal will be claiming to be a signatory to a code of conduct “when you’re not”; displaying a trust mark or quality mark without the authorisation to do so; claiming that a product or special offer will only be available for a limited time “in order to force a consumer into making a quick decision to buy that product”; and “ignor[ing] a consumer’s request to leave…and/or not return…when visiting their home”.

Businesses also must not ask a consumer to provide “unnecessary and irrelevant information to prove a valid insurance claim, or fail to respond to important correspondence, both of which could put the consumer off [of] making that insurance claim”, according to a listing of all 31 unfair practices contained in the draft legislation.

The 37-page draft document may be viewed and downloaded by clicking here. 

In the statement on the States of Jersey website announcing the new law, Murray Norton assistant minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture, said: “We don’t want rogue traders cheating consumers in Jersey. This law will protect consumers from sharp practices by unscrupulous traders, and level the playing field for the vast majority of honest businesses that trade fairly.

“Islanders should be able to trust the information they are given by traders, and this new law applies to all businesses that deal with consumers. It covers the entire process from advertising, quotes and contracts, through to after-sales services.

Around 1,000 cases a year

Currently, Jersey’s Trading Standards sees around 1,000 cases a year of consumers who have been victims of unfair trading practices. Only about one-third of these individuals typically disclose the value of the matter under dispute, but as of late last month, such cases – representing “more than £1.8m worth of goods and services” – had been investigated in 2017.

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