Exiting the European Union (Consumer Protection)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:00 pm, 2nd April 2019

We are debating a no-deal SI, and leaving the European Union means that the law is disapplied, so by leaving the European Union we are moving out of those protections.

Furthermore, if we do not revoke the geo-blocking regulation, it would result in a competitive disadvantage for UK traders. They would have to continue giving EU consumers preferential treatment, while EU traders would not need to do the same for UK customers. To avoid this, which is in the EU’s favour, we propose revoking the geo-blocking regulation in the UK.

The effect of this statutory instrument is simple. The retained EU law version of the geo-blocking regulation and the Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 will be revoked in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU. The substantive rules contained in the geo-blocking regulation will no longer have effect in the UK after that regulation is revoked. It is important to note, however, that this legislation will continue to operate in the EU. As such, UK businesses operating in EU markets will still have to comply with the EU regulation when dealing with EU consumers.

The changes made to schedule 13 to the Enterprise Act 2002 by the Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 were undone by a separate statutory instrument, the Consumer Protection (Enforcement) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Those regulations were debated and approved by the House on 30 January and were made on 6 February 2019.

The Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 enable the domestic enforcement of the geo-blocking regulation. They also provide for UK customers to bring claims directly against traders that breach the geo-blocking regulation. As the intention is to revoke the geo-blocking regulation in the UK and UK customers will not be able to rely on it thereafter, such provisions would serve no purpose.

A failure to revoke the geo-blocking regulation and the Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 would not preserve UK customers’ consumer rights. Those rights will in effect be lost if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The only effect would be to continue to impose obligations on UK traders while providing no benefit to UK customers.

The subject matter of this statutory instrument is partially devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The statutory instrument has been consented to by the Welsh and Scottish Administrations, and the Northern Ireland civil service was notified in line with the protocol agreement in place during the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive. I would like to take this opportunity warmly to thank the devolved Administrations and the Northern Ireland civil service for their ongoing co-operation.