Phew! Although consumer protection laws are based on EU directives, most are already enshrined in UK law. This means many consumer rights will stay the same, unless they are overhauled by Parliament in the future.

As such, Brexit is unlikely to have a significant impact on businesses who sell to consumers.

The most material changes include:

  • The ODR Platform (an online dispute-resolution tool maintained by the EU commission that allows consumers to make a complaint against businesses) will no longer be available to UK consumers
  • The UK has enacted legislation that contains rules equivalent to Rome I so that when businesses sell in the EU, the domestic legislation and penalties and enforcement framework established in the individual EU country will apply
  • It may be more difficult to resolve a dispute. Businesses who supply goods/services to consumers based in the EU may face enforcement locally if they fail to comply with local consumer protection laws
  • Any new EU law will not be automatically incorporated into UK domestic law
  • The modernisation of VAT for cross border e-commerce 

What does this mean for you?

You should remove any reference to the ODR platform from your terms of sale and website.

If you direct your activities to EU consumers:

  • You should seek local law advice regarding mandatory laws, to ensure your contractual terms are compliant and enforceable
  • You may face enforcement locally if you fail to comply with local national consumer protection laws which will largely reflect EU-level law (some of which the UK may have chosen not to adopt into UK law)
  • You should be aware of the changes and processes for VAT charges for cross border e-commerce which come into effect on the 1st July 2021 (watch out for an article to land on this shortly)

Knowledge Nugget

The extent to which the UK decides to enact similar EU legislation to keep harmonisation with the EU remains to be seen. Stay vigilant to future changes to the UK consumer regime and any EU-wide law and take action to ensure your trading practices and terms of sale are adapted to reflect those changes.