Consumer Protection Act 2007
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 became law in Ireland on 1 May 2007. It is one of the most important pieces of Irish consumer legislation. The Act updated older consumer legislation to improve and strengthen consumers’ rights. It put the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices into national law and repealed certain older consumer laws, some of which dated from the 19th century.
The Act established a national enforcement body, the National Consumer Agency. Under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority were replaced by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC). The CCPC took over the functions of the 2 agencies.
Upcoming changes to consumer laws
The draft Consumer Rights Bill 2021 proposes to simplify and update consumer protection laws. It proposes a number of amendments to the Consumer Protection Act 2007.
The target for the legislation to be enacted is late 2021, following a public consultation process.
What are my rights under the Act?
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 is complex and includes some detailed definitions. The main provisions of the Act are summarised below.
Unfair commercial practices
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 provided for the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices to become law in Ireland. It deals with unfair business-to-consumer (B2C) commercial practices and does not apply to business-to-business (B2B) or consumer-to-consumer (C2C) deals.
Under the Act, a range of unfair, misleading and aggressive trading practices are banned if they harm or are likely to harm the interests of a consumer.
A commercial practice is considered ‘unfair’ if it meets two conditions:
- It is misleading (giving false information or leaving out important information) or aggressive (putting pressure on you to buy)
- It is likely to distort your buying decision.
There are 32 commercial practices that are banned in all circumstances. You can find more information about unfair commercial practices.
You can read more about EU legislation on unfair commercial practices on Your Europe.
Price display regulations
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 gives the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the power to make Regulations around how prices are displayed. For example, they could require that prices of certain products must be displayed inclusive of charges, fees and taxes.
The Prices Acts 1958 – 1972 (first enacted in 1958 and amended in 1972) gave the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment a range of powers to set maximum prices. The Consumer Protection Act 2007 repeals all of these powers except the power to control prices in emergency situations. It provides that the power to control prices in emergency situations must be exercised by the government and not the Minister.
The Pyramid Selling Act 1980 was repealed by the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and replaced by new provisions. These provisions ban participation in pyramid schemes and inducing others to participate. They also ban the establishment, operation and promotion of these schemes. The penalties for offences relating to pyramid schemes involve a fine of up to €150,000 or a prison term of up to five years, or both.
The CCPC website has more information about pyramid schemes.
Codes of practice
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 provides the CCPC with powers to:
- Recognise and approve industry codes of practice drawn up by traders or groups of traders
- Issue guidelines to traders about consumer protection and welfare, commercial practices, quality assurance schemes and codes of practice
Casual trading licences
The Act gives the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment powers to introduce statutory guidelines to local authorities when issuing casual trading licences. Non-statutory guidelines were issued to local authorities in July 2005 and again in July 2006 to be implemented on a voluntary basis. In August 2018, as part of a major review of national casual trading legislation, the Minister launched a public consultation. The review process is due to finish during 2020.
What happens to traders who breach the Act?
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is the main body responsible for enforcement of the Act.
Role of the CCPC
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 allows the CCPC to take enforcement action against a trader who fails to comply with consumer law.
As a first step, the CCPC may accept a written agreement from the trader containing whatever terms and conditions the CCPC thinks are appropriate. If the trader fails to comply, then the CCPC may look for an injunction or a prohibition order against the trader.
The CCPC may serve a compliance notice on a trader where it considers they have engaged in a prohibited activity. A compliance notice is a written notice telling the trader to fix the breach of consumer legislation. The trader has 14 days to appeal the notice. If the trader fails to comply, the CCPC may take criminal proceedings.
The CCPC can give on-the-spot penalties for offences relating to the display of prices. Penalty is a fine of €300 to be paid within 28 days. If a trader fails to pay, the CCPC may take criminal proceedings
The CCPC is also required to keep and publish a Consumer Protection List. The Consumer Protection List is a list of traders who have been:
- Convicted of criminal offences
- Subject to court orders
- Bound by an undertaking
- Served with a compliance notice
- Subject to a fixed payment notice
The CCPC may apply to the courts for an order requiring a trader who has been convicted of a number of specified offences to publish, at their expense, a corrective statement about the offence.
The CCPC website has more information about consumer protection enforcement.
Role of the Central Bank of Ireland
The Central Bank of Ireland has a role in enforcing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 in the financial services area. The CCPC and the Central Bank are required to have a co-operation agreement setting out their respective roles.
The Consumer Protection Act 2007 provides protection for people who report breaches of the legislation to the CCPC.
Redress for individual consumers
Anyone, including the CCPC, may apply to the Circuit Court or the High Court for an order banning any unlawful practice (with some small exceptions) under the Consumer Protection Act 2007. If an individual takes such an action, notice must be given to the trader and to the CCPC. It is not necessary to show loss or damage as a result of the trader's actions.
If a trader is convicted of an offence under the Act, the court can require them to pay damages to you, where you have suffered loss because of the trader’s actions. A compensation order may be instead of, or as well as, any fine or penalty the court imposes on the trader.
The Act provides for a range of penalties for the various offences. The maximum fine for a first offence is as follows:
- Summary convictions - €3,000 or a prison term of 6 months, or both
- Convictions on indictment - €60,000 or a prison term of 18 months, or both
There are higher fines for repeat offenders.