The Queen’s Speech this week emphasised the importance of consumer protection in the government’s agenda for the next two years.
The speech mentioned the Government’s intention to “ensure fairer markets for consumers”, citing a number of business sectors where consumer protection issues are a priority, including travel, energy and the rented housing sector.
The government intends to publish a green paper on consumer markets where unfair practices are identified. As mentioned in a previous blog article, the Government has already identified concerns around cancelling subscriptions, complex billing and switching suppliers in the energy and telecoms sectors.
The green paper will also examine how consumers enforce their rights, with alternatives to litigation likely to be recommended. This focus on consumer awareness and enforcement is in line with a recent European Commission announcement following its review of EU consumer law.
As expected, the housing rental market also came under the spotlight with the announcement of a draft Tenants' Fees Bill, which will ban unfair letting agents fees imposed as a condition of a tenancy.
The Speech also mentioned unfair practices in the energy market as an issue to be examined by the government. However, there was no mention of the energy price cap suggested by the Prime Minister earlier this year. But there will be a Bill to provide for the continued roll-out of 'smart meters'.
An Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill seeks to facilitate the introduction of driverless cars - one of several new technologies which the government is eager to support. Following a consultation last year, the government wanted to extend compulsory insurance to cover automated vehicles, with single policies covering both the motorist and the automated vehicle. The Bill would also allow the government to require the installation of charging points at service stations and other locations.
Finally, changes were also announced to extend the ATOL holidaymakers’ protection scheme to online holiday bookings.
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