Social Media And Consumer Laws


Social media has the potential to make or break a business and the power is very much in the hands of the consumer.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great to publicise business, pop stars and even to promote events. However, it is an equally powerful tool for users to vent frustrations. This is something which retailers, manufactures and service providers might not like - or 'like' - but is almost out of their control.

Suppliers of goods and services to consumers in the real world must ensure that their products meet the quality and fitness for purpose specifications under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. However, the provisions are not universally understood by consumers and it is much less clear to what exent those obligations apply to digital goods or services. As a result, customers who are having difficulty getting satisfaction about poor products or bad customer service may resort to sharing their frustration by letting off steam on social media rather than relying on the law to obtain recompense. Clearly this is not a satisfactory state of affairs.

In June 2013, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills published its consultation paper on reforming the existing consumer rights law, together with a draft Consumer Rights Bill (the Bill).The draft Bill has four key objectives:

i. streamline existing consumer laws for the modern age;

ii. provide clarity where the law is confusing, or written in legal jargon;

iii. reduce business burden and cost by removing redundant or unduly onerous provisions; and

iv. enhance measures to protect consumers, where appropriate to do so.

The policy aim is to produce a new law that will help ordinary consumers know and understand what their rights are and make it easy and straightforward for them to obtain redress.

The draft Bill also introduces a new category of consumer goods: digital content. This...

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