Consumer Rights Bill: new rules on liability proposed for digital content suppliers

Out-Law News | 11 Dec 2014 | 6:01 pm | 2 min. read

Businesses that supply digital content to consumers would be able to insert contract terms that would exclude them from liability for damage caused by their content to consumers' devices or other digital content, under proposed new consumer protection laws backed by UK law makers.

Under the draft Consumer Rights Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, consumers would have a right to remedy for damage caused to their device or digital content belonging to them by digital content supplied by a trader under contract if "the damage is of a kind that would not have occurred if the trader had exercised reasonable care and skill".

Under a previous draft of the Bill, businesses were to be prohibited from including within their contract with consumers any exclusion or restriction on that right to remedy. However, the House of Lords has given its support to amendments which would permit businesses to impose exclusions or restrictions on their liability, so long as the contractual terms used were fair.

"The intention is to allow traders to exclude or restrict their liability for damage to the consumer’s device or other digital content to the extent that such a limitation of liability is fair," explanatory notes published alongside the proposed amendments said.

The latest version of the Bill was agreed on by the House of Lords earlier this week. The Bill will now pass between the House of Commons and the Lords until an agreement is reached on a final version of the reforms.

The Bill contains proposed new rules governing the sale of goods and services as well as, for the first time, the supply of digital content, to consumers.

According to the Lords' amendments, businesses supplying digital content would be able to update the content they provide to add new or improve existing features to it provided that the updated content matches the description of the content given to consumers and that which was included in the pre-contractual information they provided.

Under the reform plans, consumers would have a qualified right to reject goods supplied by businesses and receive a refund. The Lords' amendments would, though, see businesses liable for "any reasonable cost" incurred by consumers that return goods, other than in cases where the goods are returned "in person to where they obtained physical possession of them". The 'reasonable cost' to be borne by businesses would include "postal costs", according to the explanatory notes.

The Lords also gave their support for new disclosure rules for ticket resale websites.

"[The amendment] would provide that websites which facilitate the resale of tickets for sporting, musical or cultural events must provide information about the identity of the seller of the ticket , including their name, their registered address (if an undertaking) and VAT registration number. Such websites would also be required to disclose where they themselves or the event organiser, or someone connected to themselves or the organiser, is the seller," the Lords' explanatory notes said.

"The amendment would require the seller to provide, and the website to publish, all relevant information about the ticket, including the face value, restrictions on the ticket, location of the seat where relevant and the booking identification or reference number. The seller would also be required to state where the ticket is sold in contravention of terms and conditions agreed by the original purchaser," it said.

"Where information would be required under [the amendment] it would have to be provided prominently and accurately on the site before the buyer made a purchase, and sites would have to immediately remove tickets from sale when they were informed by the event organisers that the relevant information was inaccurate or incomplete. Information about tickets being sold in contravention of terms and conditions would have to be prominently displayed at every stage of the purchasing process," it said.