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The Adviser: Protecting consumers

The Adviser: Protecting consumers

Friday 22 March 2019

The Adviser: Protecting consumers


We're all 'consumers' in one way or another - whether that's consuming products like food or fashion, or services like plane journeys, or even gaining legal advice - so we really ought to know our rights.

Fortunately, from the first year of his law degree, contract law is something Advocate Olaf Blakeley said he became fascinated by. He shares the latest steps taken to protect consumers from trade tricks and complicated clauses...

"A good portion of [my time at university] was understanding legislation known as ‘UCTA:’ the ‘unfair contract terms act’. It was a piece of legislation to protect people, in certain circumstances, from unfair clauses inserted into contracts.

In today’s world we have to acknowledge that some people are not as ‘savvy’ as others, and many may be naïve and innocent to ‘schemes and tricks’; accordingly, unscrupulous people may choose to take advantage. Anyone with a decently tuned moral compass inherently knows it is not right or fair to trick, mislead or deceive people. Thus, the law is always attempting to improve and tighten up on protection for the public.    

Just over six months ago, Jersey introduced legislation which provides extra layers of protection for consumers. In brief summary, the consumer protection (unfair practices) law is designed to protect people from misleading selling methods and guard against ‘hard selling’ or unfair pressure being applied. In particular, the law actually prohibits over 30 types of trade practices.

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Pictured: Advocate Olaf Blakeley welcomed the latest legislation for consumer protection.

These include things such as stopping businesses/tradespeople claiming they are ‘certified,’ or members of a professional group when they are not. The reason is obvious: a person who claims they are governed or controlled by a professional body gives an impression that their workmanship/conduct reaches a certain standard (when of course, the opposite may be true).  Such claims influence consumers, and while that is acceptable, it is not so, if it is not true (obviously).

Other banned practices include a whole list of practices for applying undue pressure upon consumers, or deceiving them by creating false impressions about products and/or their prices. 

Many people will be aware of the phrase ‘caveat emptor’ which throws the responsibility upon a purchaser to ensure something being bought is of a particular standard/suitability. The law has moved away so far from that principle now, and in my opinion, correctly so.

Without legislation and courts to protect consumers, it would necessarily mean that those in our communities who may not be as intelligent as some others, or who may be more trusting, are the ones that would be preyed upon and suffer. I don’t like bullying in any form, but taking advantage of vulnerable people who may often also be those who can least afford to lose money on buying inappropriate goods or services, is simply not right and anything the law can do to protect them is welcomed. 

Pictured: Trading Standards are located in the Central Market.

It’s at this point I should pay tribute to Trading Standards service in Jersey. I have sent clients to their offices and I have received good feedback on the way their problems have been resolved, and the advice they have received.

In fact, I would strongly recommend that if you are a consumer and you consider you have been treated unfairly, or that you have a reasonable consumer complaint, you should consider taking advice from Trading Standards before even contemplating walking into a lawyer’s office. They are very experienced in this specialized area, and the advice is free. 

If you don’t know where to find them, they are located in the Central Market. Of course, you will also find further information on the internet."

This piece appeared in the latest edition of Connect, which you can read in full by clicking here.

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