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Britain has, for years, had strong consumer protection laws and further protection for consumers from unfair selling practices was introduced in the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
The UK regulations, implementing the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, prohibit various unsavoury practices. These include high-pressure selling, unfair or misleading advertising and so on. It applies only to business dealings with consumers, not dealings with other businesses, and the unfair practices it prohibits include acts of omission as well as acts of commission. It bans acts which may ‘materially distort’ the behaviour of the average consumer or consumers in relation to a product or products.
The definition of an ‘average consumer’ leaves much scope for future argument, as does the concept of what might materially distort one’s behaviour. However, a series of practices are specifically prohibited, including the following:
- running a promotion or prize draw in which no prizes are awarded;
- advertising aimed at children which attempts to get them to persuade their parents or other adults to buy something;
- refusing to leave someone’s house when asked (a common ‘high-pressure’ sales technique);
- persistently soliciting for business by fax, telephone, email etc.; or
- falsely stating that the product will be available only for a limited period of time.
If you have bought something after being pressured to do so or the product has not met the claims made for it, you may be protected by consumer law. Take advice quickly. In some cases, the right to cancel an agreement (for example timeshare and insurance purchases) is only available for a limited period of time.