13th October 2011
I am alarmed, but not surprised, by the European Commission’s latest attempt to muddy the legal waters.
The Commission wants to create an entirely new code of Consumer Protection Law which would apply to cross border trade. Businesses would then be allowed to choose whether they adhere to British or European Law.
These new plans could cause a real problem for South West consumers. The UK already has a high level of protection for consumers but, if given a choice, many businesses would likely choose the less stringent EU protection laws. Consumer groups have already expressed their 'strong concerns' about the plans.
The Commission could do many things to encourage cross-border trade. They could try cutting or simplifying existing regulations rather than adding more. At the moment we have 27 countries each with their own Consumer Protection Laws. All this latest set of regulations will do is turn 27 sets of laws into 28. It will confuse further an already complicated situation.
I fear that this is the thin end of the wedge. First the Commission proposes an impractical optional EU legal regime, although it is of course not optional for the consumer. When this fails to improve the position for consumers the Commission will then argue that the only solution is full harmonisation of contract law at the European level. In the long term this proposal could result in all contracts being under a single EU legal regime which pays no respect to the different legal traditions across the continent.
This is a bad deal for consumers and a bad deal for the English Legal System.