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In recent weeks, we have been looking quite intensely at consumer terms and conditions: how can they be drafted and presented in ways that are creative yet effective?
In other words, whilst a business' T&Cs are unlikely to become a bestseller or win the Man Booker Prize, there are steps that can be made to make them much more user-friendly and understandable.
That said, there are always times when the background law doesn't give much, or indeed any, flexibility. Sometimes the law dictates what should be said or how it should be said.
Today, we briefly look at up-coming changes in the law which will, to varying degrees, impact on business-to-consumer terms and conditions over the next six months or so. They mean that your client's terms and conditions will no doubt need to be amended. Soon!
Ofcom is going to change the structure of non-geographic call charges on 1 July 2015 (ie in just over 2 months).
If your client uses any of the following number types in its terms and conditions or any advertising material, the changes will apply:
To this end, the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has provided guidance on what it expects to see from businesses:
under Ofcom's policy you will need to state the service charge for any service numbers given in your marketing materials, and make clear that an access charge applies. We recommend the format “Calls cost xp [or xp per minute] plus your telephone company’s network access charge.”
UK Calling, which provides a 'Guide for businesses to the UK Calling changes', recommends similar wording:
you must ensure that your service charge is clearly displayed wherever you advertise or promote that number. The service charge should be prominent and in close proximity to the number itself. The recommended form of wording is: “Calls cost xp [or xp per minute] plus your phone company's access charge.”
To be fair, it isn't particularly helpful that the two forms of wording are different, with the UK Calling one being slightly simpler, although I suspect that if either is used a business should be pretty safe.
Whilst the changes are laudable, I'm not particularly convinced that they offer that much more transparency for consumers unless 'network access charges' are publicised properly.
Indeed, during the consultation process some organisations, such as Channel 5, feared that customers might still not realise how much a call would cost, particularly from a mobile phone. The TV station noted:
we feel that viewers will not be driven to find out what their access charge is (given the brevity of the on-air message) and will instead choose not to participate at all rather than go to the effort of investigating this further
Having said that, we are where we are so you should be advising clients of the need to comply with the new rules by the July deadline.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 were laid before Parliament on 17 March 2015.
The regulations implement most provisions of the 'ADR Directive'.
The purpose of the directive is to promote the use of ADR schemes in consumer disputes throughout the EU.
The fine details are still being ironed out but lawyers need to be aware of the information requirements in regulation 19 (which come into force on 9 July 2015). These state that the 'trader must provide the name and website address of the ADR entity' (ie to which consumer disputes can be referred):
A second set of regulations will be laid before Parliament by the summer of 2015 to implement the remainder of the directive. For more details, check out the government's specific webpage on this.
Lawyers need to start thinking about how they intend to advise their clients on how to implement its changes now.
To this end, we will be writing plenty about this new act soon.
So what do you think?
Yet more changes?
Or perhaps you think they don't go far enough?
Do let us have your thoughts. In the meantime, why not check out our previous posts on T&Cs (if you've not already done so):
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