Consumer rights meaningless without international support, Lords say

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Dec 19, 2017
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The committee asked how UK-only rights would enable complaints about products bought or manufactured in Europe

Ian Dagnall/Alamy

Ministers should explain how the government will ensure that the consumer rights of UK citizens are protected and enforced after the country leaves the EU, a group of peers said yesterday.

A House of Lords committee criticised government plans to mirror the rights British citizens currently have in EU law as being “not enough”. Those laws “mean nothing”, said the EU justice sub-committee, “without the international mechanisms and agencies that support them”.

The committee’s report said that Brexit raised several important questions about future protections for British consumers. For example, it called on the government to clarify how UK-only consumer protection laws enable consumers to complain about faulty products manufactured or purchased in Europe. Likewise, the peers said ministers must clarify the position of Britons travelling in the EU, asking: “How will UK holidaymakers and business people be able to complain about a sub-standard hotel or hire car service while visiting another European country?”

The report highlighted what it described as the government’s “inability to provide any plan as to how it will successfully secure the UK’s continued participation in the network of agencies, mechanisms and infrastructure that underpin consumer rights across the single market”.

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, chairwoman of the committee and a tenant at Doughty Street Chambers in London, said Margot James, the consumer affairs minister, had provided “no reassurance that consumer rights will be protected once we leave the European Union”.

“The UK has spent 40 years shaping the body of law, including 90 European Directives, to protect consumers across the EU,” she said. “These consumer rights ensure high standards, and the EU mechanisms currently in place allow us to seek compensation, and lead to improved services. In a world where the products we buy are internationally manufactured, the holidays we go on can take us all over the world and consumer protection is proven to be more effective through co-operation, the government must do everything it can to make sure the UK and the EU continue to work together.”

Sanctions ‘undermined’ without US-style co-operation

The effectiveness of British sanctions will be undermined unless the ministers can quickly agree arrangements for sanctions policy co-operation with the EU, another set of peers has warned.

US-style informal engagement should be struck between the UK and the EU over sanctions, the House of Lords EU external affairs sub-committee said in a report issued earlier this week. “If the UK does not participate in the common foreign and security policy after Brexit,” said the committee, “the government should establish a political forum with the EU for regular discussion and co-ordination of sanctions policy.”

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