OFT Studying Consumer Contracts

OFT launches market study into consumer contracts

The OFT has launched a market study, under section 5 of the Enterprise Act 2002, to examine when, how and why consumers have difficulties with contracts. The OFT will be looking at the terms, features or types of contract with which consumers have particular difficulties, including exploring problems that arise both in the small print and upfront terms and the influence of independent advice.

Also, the OFT will be examining why firms use terms which disadvantage consumers, for example, if they are trying to protect themselves from uncertainty or are following the market.

In addition, the OFT will consider how consumers interpret contracts and if this is influenced by behavioural biases or other consumer characteristics. The OFT expects to complete the study in winter 2010. Depending on its findings, the OFT will consider further action, such as providing consumer education, guidance to firms and working with trading standards and sector regulators.

The study follows previous studies into internet shopping and doorstep selling, and comes as the European Commission is proposing new laws for unfair terms in consumer contracts through a new consumer rights directive. The OFT requests responses from the government, businesses and consumer groups and invites submissions from those interested by 31 March 2010. For more information about consumer contracts. Source: OFT press release, 4 February, 2010.

At Gregory Abrams Davidson, we are frequently contacted by clients who have been disadvantaged by the small print and upfront terms of a variety of consumer agreements.

If you feel that you have been unfairly prejudiced as a result of unfair terms in a consumer contract, please contact our Dispute Resolution and Debt Recovery teams are lead by solicitors Martin Shellien and Ciaran Montague. Both are experienced and respected litigation lawyers.