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Lack of consumer justice a ‘scandal’

Lack of consumer justice a ‘scandal’

Category: Money

Updated: 26/08/2009
First Published: 26/08/2009

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.
A consumer watchdog has called for a change in the law that would allow people to sue firms and traders using banned practices to con them out of money.

New laws were brought in last May that prohibit businesses from trading in an unfair manner, but research conducted by Consumer Focus has found that 60 per cent of consumers believe they have fallen victim to traders that have acted illegally in the last two years.

However, consumers do not have the right to take them to court, despite four in five people who have fallen foul saying they would have welcomed a chance to seek compensation.

"In spite of new rules banning unfair sales practices, some traders are still doing very well out of unsuspecting consumers," Phillip Cullum, deputy chief executive of Consumer Focus, commented.

"In some cases, they are counting on the fact that if the loss is small, consumers will be less likely to complain or take action, so many carry on misleading.

"It is a scandal that consumers cannot get justice when they have been wronged."

Common sharp practices consumers being told they were a lucky winner, when high post or telephone charges were required to claim low value prizes, and being deceived by bogus claims such as 'absolutely free' or 'offer must end Monday.'

Persistent sales calls were also found to be a common illegal practice.

Consumers were left around £175 out of pocket on average, although losses as high as £800 or more have been reported.

Consumer Focus is now calling on the Government to change the law to allow traders to be sued for ignoring the law change and would like to see enforcement agencies such as the Office of Fair Trading be given powers to seek compensation on behalf of consumers.

Hugh Collins, Professor of English Law at the London School of Economics, said: "As a point of legal and moral principle, consumers who suffer loss should have the opportunity to obtain compensation in the courts from those who caused it. The Government should rectify this problem."

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