Irish Government approves new bill to protect consumers’ digital rights

22 Feb 2022

Image: © Chinnapong/Stock.adobe.com

The new Consumer Rights Bill will offer protections on digital goods and services, while cracking down on dishonest online business practices.

The Irish Government has given approval to publish a new bill to strengthen consumer rights, with a focus on digital services and content.

The planned Consumer Rights Bill 2022 will offer rights and protections in relation to streaming, downloads and cloud products, as well as traditional products and services. Some of these new rights include the right to a full refund, exchange or repair when an online product or service is not as described or not fit for purpose.

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Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, said today (22 February) that the new bill consolidates and updates a lot of existing legislation, to make it fit for a “modern, digital age”.

“For the first time, we’re extending consumer rights over digital goods and services, meaning you will have the same rights over anything you stream or download as you do over a good or service you’d buy in a shop,” Varadkar said. “We’re also cracking down on aggressive commercial practices, such as a company leaving fake reviews on its own or competitor’s services.”

Along with refund, exchange and repair options, consumers will also be entitled to have a price reduction on faulty goods, if that suits them better. They can also withhold payment for partially paid goods if they are not satisfied with the quality.

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Robert Troy, TD, said the new bill is the “biggest overhaul of consumer rights law in 40 years”.

“The proposed legislation modernises and consolidates existing consumer protection law and significantly strengthens the enforcement powers of our agencies responsible for ensuring consumer rights such as the CCPC and ComReg,” Troy added.

“Once enacted this legislation will strengthen protections for consumers, while also creating clearer rules for businesses ensuring the market works fairly and effectively for both.”

To ensure greater transparency, there are new ‘blacklisted’ terms and conditions which will be automatically regarded as unfair if put in a contract. An example of this is any condition that allows a trader to unilaterally change the terms of a contract.

Digital Business Ireland secretary general Lorraine Higgins said the Government has done “tremendous work” in implementing protective measures for digital goods and services for the first time.

“Over the course of the last two years, businesses have taken extraordinary steps in pivoting online and, as a result, consumers are becoming more accustomed to the convenience and security afforded by online shopping,” Higgins said.

“Therefore, it was imperative that Government took steps to adequately protect consumers, while providing coherent guidelines for businesses who trade online. This move will hopefully give the edge to Irish merchants trading in the global marketplace.”

The Consumer Rights Bill 2022 is expected to be published soon and will then make its way through all stages in the Oireachtas.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com