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Consumer Protection (Enforcement) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:52 pm on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 7:52 pm, 15th January 2019

My Lords, this instrument is part of our EU exit contingency planning. It will not be needed should the UK conclude the withdrawal agreement with the EU.

Several laws allow for collective redress where infringements of consumer protection laws take place. The first of these is the consumer protection co-operation regulation, known as the CPC regulation. The reciprocal arrangements that this EU law sets out require enforcers to act on requests from their counterparts in another EU member state. They are required to investigate and, if necessary, take action to end infringements of EU consumer law where the collective interests of consumers in another member state are being harmed.

The second of these laws is the injunctions directive. The reciprocal arrangements in this EU directive allow enforcers to take action in the courts of other member states to stop the relevant infringement. In the UK, Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002 implements the injunctions directive as well as providing the UK’s enforcement mechanism for the CPC regulation. It enables certain UK and EU enforcers to apply for enforcement orders to stop the infringement in question, where listed EU consumer laws are being breached— known as community infringements—and the collective interests of consumers are being harmed. Lastly, UK enforcers are given the necessary investigatory powers through Schedule 5 to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

After EU exit, and in the absence of a deal, the CPC regulation and injunctions directive will no longer apply to the UK as we will cease to be a member state. In consequence, UK consumer enforcers such as the Competition and Markets Authority will no longer be part of the reciprocal cross-border enforcement arrangements. This instrument therefore revokes the CPC regulation, which will otherwise continue to apply in UK law. This prevents a situation in which UK enforcers are required to assist their EU counterparts while EU enforcers are not under the same obligation.

The instrument also amends the Enterprise Act so that EU enforcers cannot apply for enforcement orders in the UK courts. This prevents a situation whereby EU enforcers remain able to take legal proceedings under the injunctions directive in UK courts while UK enforcers lose their equivalent right to take proceedings in the EU. However, the instrument does not prevent UK enforcers co-operating with their EU counterparts. UK public bodies will remain able to share information that they hold in their capacity as enforcers under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act to assist their counterparts abroad, although we recognise that cross-border enforcement co-operation to protect consumers will become more limited in a no-deal scenario.

The instrument also ensures that UK enforcers retain the powers that they have now to continue, within the UK, to investigate and address infringements of UK consumer law, including retained EU consumer law, after exit day. These laws are set out in the new Schedule 13 to the Enterprise Act inserted by this instrument.

In conclusion, these changes are a necessary use of the powers of the EU withdrawal Act and I commend the instrument to the House.