UK consumer protection legislation is robust, giving them substantial rights and imposing significant obligations on traders. Indeed, in some cases the actions of a vendor may be sufficient to constitute an ‘unfair commercial practice’ (UCP). UK law prohibits UCPs and, in many cases, they represent a breach of the criminal law under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.
A UCP is any commercial act, omission or course of conduct, representation or communication which:
A term which is misleading (by inclusion or omission) may be unfair – for example by the inclusion of false or deceptive information.
In certain cases, unfair contract terms can be UCPs. Unfair contract terms are always unenforceable.
Where UCPs are carried out knowingly or recklessly and distort or are likely to distort consumer behaviour or involve misleading acts or omissions, this is a breach of the law which may lead on conviction to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a sentence of up to two years’ imprisonment.
It should be noted that the Act applies only to contracts with consumers - its remit does not extend into commercial contracts and attempts to 'stretch' the legislation inot the commercial arena have failed.