‘Significant changes’ on consumer contracts

trustmarkFollowing the introduction of the new Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, scheme operators for TrustMark, the government endorsed quality mark for expert tradespeople, are swinging into
,action to help window installers and glaziers comply with the significant changes that now apply to home improvement and repair contracts.

,The new regulations introduce major changes in the law relating to consumer protection. They now apply to consumer contracts made on premises (through retail stores), made at a distance (including online sales) and off premises (e.g. in-home sales).

,Window and door installers and glazing firms will need to review their processes and change their paperwork and terms and conditions to ensure they are compliant with the new law. Failure to comply may result in prosecution or a fine. Depending on the type of breach, the contract may not be liable for some of the changes. The key changes include:

,• Consumers must now be given much more information before they sign a contract, about the trader, the goods, the price, any other applicable charges, the terms of the contract, and their cancellation rights in a clear and comprehensive manner.
,• Traders will need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – pre-ticked boxes for additional payments, for instance, will no longer be permitted.
,• Consumers will not be liable for costs which they have not been told about in advance.
,• The cooling-off period for goods and services sold by distance or by off premises selling will be harmonised across the EU to 14 days from date of delivery of the products, as opposed to the previous seven days from date of contract. 
,• Where a consumer has a right to cancel a contract, the trader is required to provide the customer with a model cancellation form.
,• The cancellation period is extended to, broadly, 12 months if the trader fails to provide certain pre-contract information. The trader could also be liable to a fine of up to £5,000.
,• There are some exemptions as regards cancellation rights, one of which is for products ‘made to the consumer’s specification’ – this will include such products as made-to-measure windows made to a consumer’s specific requirements; another is for urgent repairs and maintenance when a consumer invites a trader to their home.

,Liz Male, chairman of TrustMark, said: “These new Consumer Contracts Regulations will really help to clarify contracts for homeowners and tradespeople, so they should be viewed positively. It’s a big step forward to helping both sides enjoy a positive and transparent working relationship on all home repair, maintenance and improvement jobs.

,”What matters now is that all TrustMark registered firms get the detailed guidance they need in order to ensure they are fully compliant. I’m delighted our approved scheme operators in this sector, including the Glass & Glazing Federation (GGF) are already busy providing this support to their registered firms.”

,Nigel Rees, group chief executive of the GGF, said: “With these new laws, traders are required to give much more detailed information before and after making a sale, which can only be a good news for consumers so they can ensure there are no hidden costs. The purpose of this requirement is to make sure that, should a dispute arise at some point after the contract has been concluded, both parties have a record about what was agreed.

,“But the burden of proof that the rele