Letter to the Western Mail on hidden fees and charges

June 20, 2014 11:06 AM

Speaking at conference

Sir,

As Consumer Affairs Minister I want to see empowered, savvy shoppers who know their rights, shop around for the best deals and drive competition.

So I'm really pleased that we have just brought in a major new set of consumer rights, giving online shoppers greater protection against hidden fees, charges and other pitfalls.

Consumers can no longer be charged high fees for buying online with their debit or credit cards and the "cooling off period" has gone from seven to fourteen days during which they can cancel an order and receive a refund without giving a reason. Those buying music, films and books in digital format can also use the cooling off period for the first time, up until the point any download starts.

The Directive also bans all hidden fees and charges, so sellers will have to tell customers about any extra amounts before they place an order. Retailers are already banned from charging card fees that exceed the actual cost of processing a payment and companies operating a helpline will be banned from charging more than the standard rate for calls about something the consumer has bought. There will also be a ban on pre-ticked boxes in online purchases, so traders can't hide charges by having a pre-ticked box buried in the small print.

This is really important progress in protecting consumers, particularly with increasing numbers of us shopping online.

Of course, it is essential not only that we keep our consumer protection laws up-to-date, but also that people are aware of these rights. While Government research shows consumers are generally pretty good at this already and know the law, things could be clearer. That's why I have been taking the Consumer Rights Bill through Parliament to make rights simpler for both consumers and businesses.

This will give people more power to challenge bad practice - important for us all as shoppers, but also so that companies which are doing the right thing aren't put at a disadvantage by rogue businesses acting irresponsibly.

Yours faithfully,

Jenny Willott

Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central

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