This guest blog was contributed by Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.
Despite the excellent work carried out by Trading Standards and other enforcers, far too many rogue traders still get away without paying any money back to their victims. As the Consumer Minister I was shocked to find out that more than 60% of us have been targeted by misleading and aggressive sales practices at some point. And as more of us get wise to their practices and scams they are happy to turn their attention to easier targets, the most vulnerable and elderly in society.
While the vast majority of traders are trustworthy, all too often we hear stories of elderly people being targeted in their own homes by unscrupulous traders. Search online ‘Elderly Scams’ and you get thousands of news stories from all over the country. It can be heartbreaking for families to find that their elderly relative has fallen victim to a rogue trader who pressurised them or misled them into signing up to a completely inappropriate deal that cost over the odds.
It is made even worse by the complicated and confusing legal hoops you have to jump through to try and take action. The current laws talk of ‘unjust enrichment’ and ‘misrepresentation’ – they sound as if they come from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. But these are the laws consumers have to navigate at the moment if they want to get their money back and we must make them simpler.
That is why I am delighted to be unveiling proposals that will make it easier for victims to take action to fight back. Consumers will now have a simple route to taking court action against traders who mislead or bully them into buying things or signing up to things they neither want nor need.
We also know that many people who have been duped by rogue traders can feel embarrassed and that it can take time for the victim or their relatives and friends to realise they have been taken advantage of. Under the new proposals, victims will have 90 days to cancel the contract and get a full refund. Even after those 90 days have passed, victims can get some money back.
The new rights will not only make it easier and simpler for relatives and friends of victims to help bring a case against these rogues, they will also mean consumers can be compensated for the loss and harm these crooks cause, including for emotional distress.