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Consumer green paper expected to look at simplification of small print in contracts

Consultation on improved consumer protection welcomed

Posted on 05 March 2017

It is reported that the government will be launching a crackdown on so-called “subscription traps” where consumers are locked into making regular payments for services after a free trial period. This proposal will form part of a wider examination of markets which the Government feels are not working fairly for consumers.
As part of the Budget on 8 March, Chancellor Phillip Hammond is expected to outline details of an upcoming consumer green paper which will look at ways to simplify small print and reduce the number of people being charged unexpected automatic fees for services they do not need. Proposals include  ensuring that consumers are alerted in good time when a payment is about to be taken and fines for companies who are found to have mistreated customers. 
A report from Citizens Advice last year found as many as 2 million people struggle to cancel continuous payments, often used to buying products online, and 4 in 5 people had issues cancelling after being signed up without their knowledge.
Brian McFerran, a solicitor in the consumer law and product safety team at Leigh Day, commented “Consumers are often caught out by extremely lengthy and confusing terms and conditions which make it difficult for them to know exactly what they are committing to. Some subscription services are on an annual basis with a hefty up-front fee – these services are often automatically renewed without consumers having the chance to indicate whether they wish to continue with the service. We welcome any moves by the Government to restrict this type of activity and force businesses to make their terms crystal clear to consumers.”