Do you have a Consumer Protection problem?

Do you have a Consumer Protection problem?

The courts and legislative bodies are increasingly erring on the side of the consumer on issues relating to consumer protection.  The message is that misleading or unscrupulous practices by businesses that take advantage of consumers will not be tolerated.  

If you have a legal problem relating to consumer protection issues the experienced commercial dispute resolution lawyers at Parris Whittaker will take prompt and, where necessary, aggressive action to protect  your interests.

The Law

Under the Consumer Protection Act 2006 consumers are afforded a greater level of protection than before the Act was passed.  It protects them from, for instance, exorbitant prices, unscrupulous business practices, and misleading promotions.

The Act provides that “no person shall, in the course of trade or business, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive”. A person who commits an offence under this provision is liable to a fine of up to $3,000. Under the Act different penalties are afforded depending on the breach committed.

Furthermore, under the Act, “no person shall, in the course of trade or business engage in conduct that is likely to mislead the public as to the nature, manufacturing process, characteristics, suitability for a purpose or quantity of goods or services, as the case may be”.

Whilst the law is clear, businesses still fall foul of the law – even global companies.  Computer giant Apple, for instance, has been fined $2.2million by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for ignoring orders to change its advertising inaccurately claiming the iPad was 4G capable in Australia.  The judge was concerned that the company’s actions were deliberate.  The fine sends out a clear warning to all businesses that misleading the public is not acceptable.

Prizes for consumers

A recent issue that has also received media attention is that of prizes on offer to consumers.  A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice confirms that the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading position that prizes won must be genuine and must not incur additional costs when finding out what the prize is.  And additional costs must not be incurred when consumers find out how to claim or take possession of prizes. Prizes must be clearly described so people understand what they are winning.

 

This case concerned the use of the words ‘false impression’ in relation to imposing an additional requirement to the requirement that the consumer has incurred a cost in relation to claiming the prize. The court ruled in favour of consumers.  Businesses cannot therefore rely on stating the charges consumers will incur in claiming the prize in order to avoid the prohibition.

The Bahamas' legal system is based on English common law which means this ruling and the OFT’s position will have strong persuasive effect should similar cases come up in this jurisdiction. 

The responsibility on businesses

Businesses complying with the law should have little to be concerned about.  But they must be aware that businesses may be caught for breaching consumer protection laws and be liable for financial penalties.  The experienced commercial dispute resolution lawyers at Parris Whittaker will give you urgent and strategic advice when required.  Contact us if you have any questions relating to the consumer protection act