Consumer Rights Bill 2022 gives better protections for the digital age

The Irish Government has approved the Consumer Rights Bill 2022 that consolidates and modernises consumer law to give consumers the same protections online as they enjoy offline.

Effectively Irish consumers buying digital goods such as cloud or streaming services, apps or goods online will have the same rights over anything they would buy in a physical store.

New digital rights include: right to full refund, exchange or repair when good or service is not as described or not fit for purpose. Consumers will be entitled to any upgrades to the product or service that are needed to ensure the goods continue to work as expected and agreed, free of charge.

“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”

New prohibited, ‘black-listed’ terms and conditions which are automatically regarded as unfair when put in a contract.  Examples include, any condition which allows a trader to unilaterally change the terms of a contract, or any provision which would indemnify a trader from harm caused by a product or service

What businesses need to know about the Consumer Rights Bill 2022

Businesses will also be required to set out clearly a description of the goods or services being provided, the total price of the item and the cost of delivery before entering into a contract with a consumer.

Companies who engage in misleading and aggressive commercial practices, such as fake reviews, could be subject to fines imposed by the Courts following enforcement action taken by the CCPC.

Instead of just exchange, refund or repair, customers will also be entitled to agree a price reduction on faulty goods, if that suits them better. They will also be entitled to withhold payment for goods partially paid for if they are not satisfied with the quality of the item received. Any form of redress must be free of charge and must be carried out as soon as possible.

“This new law is good for consumers and good for business,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD.

“Most businesses are responsible and treat their customers fairly when things go wrong. For those that don’t, it can give them an unfair advantage over their competitors. This new law consolidates a lot of existing legislation and updates it, to make it fit for the 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. We’re also cracking down on aggressive commercial practices, such as a company leaving fake reviews on its own or competitor’s services.”

Secretary-general of Digital Business Ireland Lorraine Higgins said that the new Bill includes strong protective measures for the right of the consumer buying digital goods and services.

“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. “At Digital Business Ireland, our most recent research showed that 38% of consumers plan to increase their online expenditure this year. 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”

“At Digital Business Ireland, we look forward to working closely with all stakeholders, to ensure our consumer laws reflect the new and dynamic digital marketplaces that many Irish businesses are operating in”.

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.