Dianne Hayter on the many concessions forced on the government to its Consumer Rights Bill
The Consumer Rights Bill will leave the House of Lords on Monday looking very different from when it arrived from the Commons. While Ministers themselves chose to bring forward rules forcing lettings agents to publicise fees (after pressure from Stella Creasy and MP colleagues), multiple changes follow concerted pressure from Labour Peers and others.
Chief among the concessions were our getting the government to: give all higher education students, not just those at universities, the right to take complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator; ensure no charges are made for returning faulty goods to the retailer; and force anyone making a marketing call to display their telephone number. And in very large measure, the government also accepted our amendment to stop a retailer being able to make a “Deduction for use” when faulty goods were returned after six months, leaving this measure only applying to cars.
Similarly, Ministers accepted our argument (supported by Crossbencher Lord Best) that Trading Standards Officers should not have to give 48 hours’ written notice when inspecting premises where they thought counterfeit, unsafe or other such goods were stored. Instead, they amended the wording to clarify that such notice would only have be given for routine inspections, and undertook to review even that requirement in two years’ time. Furthermore, as a result of our pressure on the TV advertising of payday loans before the 9pm ‘watershed’, the Committee of Advertising Practice is to be tasked with reviewing the content and timing of such ads.
Labour also pressed to make it compulsory for all Letting Agents to protect the rent gathered from tenants in a protected and insured ‘Client Bank Account’ so that the landlords would receive money if an Agent went bust or ran off. The government resisted this consumer-friendly move but did at least agree to make Letting Agents declare whether they had such ‘Client Money Protection’ in place. Finally, where we wanted tougher rules on Product Recall when electrical and other goods had been found to be dangerous, Ministers heard our argument and agreed to a review which should improve practice and, hopefully, save lives from fire, electrocution or carbon monoxide poisoning.
There was also one other major change to the Bill, when the government was defeated in the division lobbies on a cross-party amendment on ticket touting rip-offs. Pushed by, among others, two Conservative Peers – former Olympian Colin Moynihan and ex-cricketer Rachel Heyhoe-Flint – and my Labour frontbench colleague Wilf Stevenson, to introduce some rules and transparency into the internet-based secondary ticketing market (for music as well as sport), the successful amendment will now go to MPs for consideration, where questions will no doubt be asked as to why the government is so set against something many of its own Peers support.
All in all, following argument and pressure in the Lords, what started as something of a missed opportunity to improve consumer rights will now come with a range of greater protections, even if not the full gamut of rights we hoped to see inserted. The rest we will do once Labour is back in government.
Baroness Dianne Hayter of Kentish Town is Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @HayteratLords
Published 7th December 2014