New Consumer Act Implemented on August 23rd

A couple of years ago, on the pavement outside this building (while I sat obliviously in my office upstairs), a woman took a stick to her brand-new car – this was when ITV was operating from here before it was stolen by the secret puppetmasters. The woman was angry about the quality of the car and the unwillingness of the showroom to do anything about her complaints. Some readers may have been put in mind of the episode from Fawlty Towers when Basil decides to administer a damn good thrashing to his car, which had just let him down again at an inopportune moment.

There are regular complaints about customer service in the letters pages of the newspapers – just yesterday a correspondent complained about the fact that the Charity Shield had been advertised but then did not appear on the screen – on complaining to the station, he was told it would be shown one hour late at ten o’clock on a delay basis – ten o’clock came and no football appeared so he rang back to find that ten o’clock was when the call centre was closed.

Well, things should be a little better henceforth, at least in theory, as a new law is being introduced to protect consumers. The 2008 Consumer Case Procedures Act (it comes into effect on the 23rd so hold on) will make things easier for consumer complaints by restricting the use of counter-suits, limiting delays and opening cases in distant provinces, which have all been legal tactics employed by businesses seeking to evade complaints. The real estate industry is likely to be the most affected – of the 4,210 complaints recorded from October 2007 to June of this year, 1,901 concerned real estate. Not sure how many of these involved farangs buying properties and then feeling themselves cheated one way or another but they are a very vocal subset. Consumers will not have to pay court charges of various sorts unless their suits are found to be ‘unreasonable’ or the damages sought ‘excessive.’ Well, we will see how this plays out in reality as the courts have been making some interesting decisions recently.