It seems like there is a new development regarding consumer law every week at the moment. We have recently written about the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill which is passing through the UK parliament, as well as the latest consultation on reforming consumer law further, including to deal with fake reviews.
These developments come against the background of Which? carrying out a survey of supermarket loyalty cards, separately publishing a report about fake reviews, and the European consumer authority BEUC carrying out a survey of consumers about their views on the online environment.
Which?'s research identified key problems, particularly when two prices are given for the same product, with one price available to customers with a loyalty card, and a 'regular' price for those customers who don't have a loyalty card.
In some cases, 'regular' prices had been changed right before the loyalty card promotion, some 'regular' prices were far more expensive than at other supermarkets, and some 'regular' prices had only been available for a very short amount of time.
In addition, not all customers are able to sign up to loyalty schemes in the first place. There are often age and address-based restrictions as well as digital requirements which exclude certain population groups.
Which? has passed on its findings to the CMA, which is currently reviewing the groceries market.
In addition, Which? has published a report summarising the actions platforms currently take to tackle fake and misleading reviews, the ongoing problems it has found and setting out its recommendations for the steps platforms should take to protect consumers. It says that platforms must properly assess the risks of the business model they choose and the design of their service to determine the potential harm it poses to consumers. This must inform the decisions they make about the potential mitigations to prevent fake and misleading reviews. These can include requiring reviews to be linked to verified purchases, automated pre-publication checks, user reporting of posted reviews and attempts to tackle the ecosystem of review brokers. Which? also thinks that provisions on fake reviews should be added to the DMCC Bill rather than secondary legislation.
On the wider European front, BEUC's survey found that:
- Despite spending more time online, fewer than half of consumers (43%) feel in control of the content they are shown and the decisions they take.
- Respondents generally felt unhappy with how they are protected by their regulators.
- Respondents disapprove of being monitored and tracked online.
- Consumers want greater regulation of influencers on social media.
- Children deserve greater protection online, according to consumers. 75% agree that children need more protection from online tracking and from being influenced by digital services.
- Consumers also feel there should be more protection of gamers, with almost seven in ten people (69%) say they want more regulation around the exchange of real-world money for virtual items in games.
- People want to have greater choice over how much data connected devices collect.
- The big majority of consumers (77%) would also like to be able to turn off the internet connection on a device if it is not essential for its functioning.
BEUC wants the European Commission to address these concerns in its ongoing fitness check of EU consumer law and to propose amendments to legislation.
Lewis Silkin Consumer Law Tracker
To help you keep on top of the latest developments, we will shortly be launching a new consumer law tracker, covering the key UK and EU developments - stay tuned!