Misleading and aggressive practices
- This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
If you enter into a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages.
These rights are in addition to the rights and remedies you have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services and digital content.
What is a misleading action?
If a trader gives you false information about a product (or the overall presentation of the product deceives or is likely to deceive you) and you go ahead with a purchase as a result, it is called a misleading action. For example, if a trader tells you that the used car you are interested in has had only one previous owner when in fact it has had five, this is a misleading action.
What is an aggressive commercial practice?
If you go ahead with a purchase because a trader has affected your judgement by using harassment, coercion or undue influence (also known as high-pressure selling) this is an aggressive commercial practice. An example of this is where a trader calls at your door and offers to carry out repairs to your roof. They access your roof without permission, pressure you into agreeing for 'essential' work to be done and then demand a large payment.
What is a product?
The definition of a product under the Regulations is wide-ranging, although there are some exceptions that are covered in the 'When don't you have rights to redress?' section below. Products are:
- digital content (downloads, apps, etc)
- immoveable property (houses or land)
- rights or obligations
When do you have rights to redress?
If you enter one of the following types of contract or make a payment to a trader and a misleading action or aggressive commercial practice was a significant factor in your decision to go ahead then you have rights to redress:
- business-to-consumer contract. You enter into a contract with a trader for the sale or supply of a product (the supply and fitting of double glazing, for example)
- consumer-to-business contract. You enter into a contract with a trader to sell goods to them (you sell an old mobile phone to a trader, for example). Take note that this section does not apply to contracts where the trader supplies you with goods or services as well as paying you for goods you have exchanged; this will usually be a business-to-consumer contract
- a consumer payment. You make a payment to a trader for the supply of a product
If a manufacturer or importer of goods or digital content acts in a misleading way or their practices are aggressive and the trader knows or ought to be aware of this, then you have rights to redress against the trader who sold or supplied the product to you.
The Regulations make it clear that debt collection practices are covered. Where a debt collector is acting as agent for a trader then you have rights to redress against the trader and where a debt collector is collecting their own debts you have rights to redress against them if they mislead you or act aggressively.
When don't you have rights to redress?
There are certain types of product and contracts that are excluded from the Regulations (as there are other laws that cover them). These are:
- contracts for immoveable property, such as those for houses and land as well as contracts for social housing provided by private landlords, local authorities and housing associations. However, assured tenancies (types of residential tenancy) and leases where accommodation is let as holiday accommodation are covered
- financial services, such as credit agreements, mortgages, insurance and banking. However, restricted-use credit agreements (the credit is used to finance a particular transaction and you are not free to use it as you choose - for example, a credit agreement arranged by a trader to finance the supply and fitting of double glazing in your home) and timeshare accommodation agreements are covered
What are your rights to redress?
The Regulations give you three remedies:
- the right to unwind the contract
- the right to a discount
- the right to claim damages
The following sections explain how and when you can claim these rights:
RIGHT TO UNWIND
This right allows you to undo a contract you have with a trader for the sale or supply of a product; a so-called business-to-consumer contract.
You have a time limit of 90 days to complain to the trader and reject the product. This starts from the latest of the following circumstances:
- the day you enter the contract
- when the goods are first delivered
- when the performance of the service begins
- when the digital content is first supplied
- when the lease begins
- the moment the right is first exercisable
If your contact is a mixed contract because it consists of a mix of goods, services, digital content, immoveable property or rights then the 90-day period begins when the last of the components is provided.
Take note that you can only unwind a contract if the goods or digital content have not been fully consumed, the service has not been fully performed, the lease has not expired or the right has not been fully exercised. Even if you can only return some of the goods that have not been used or if you halt the service before it has been completed, you will still have the right to unwind the contract. However, if you accept a discount (see the 'Right to a discount' section) for the same contract and because of the same misleading action or aggressive commercial practice, you lose the right to unwind it.
The Regulations only require you to give the trader a clear indication of your intention to unwind the contract, but it is usually best to inform the trader in writing of your intentions.
At this point the contract is ended and the trader must refund your money. If you transferred anything else as part of the contract (a car in part-exchange for another car, for example) you are entitled to have it returned to you or, if this is not possible, you are entitled to be given its market price. You must make any goods you receive available for collection by the trader.
If you entered a continuous or regular contract for goods, a service, the supply of digital content or any other product and you have used them for more than a month, your refund can be reduced to take account of the use you have had, unless the trader's behaviour was so bad or the impact on you was so great that it warrants a full refund. A court will decide the amount of refund if your claim for redress is successful.
If you sell goods to a trader (under a so-called consumer-to-business contract) and then notify the trader of your intention to unwind it, you are entitled to have your goods returned (or their market price) and you must reimburse the trader with any payment that you received.
There may be circumstances where a trader demands payment from you because they claim you owe them money. You have the right to unwind if you make payments that you don't have to. In this case, you are entitled to either a full refund or a part refund if some of the payment is actually due.
RIGHT TO A DISCOUNT
This right allows you to claim a discount in the case of a business-to-consumer contract. It applies when you have made one or more payments to the trader or one or more payments are due and you no longer have the right to unwind the contract (it's over 90 days since you entered the contract or the product has been fully consumed).
When the cost of the product is less than £5,000 you can claim one of the following discounts for a misleading action or aggressive commercial practice:
- 25% if it is more than minor
- 50% if it is significant
- 75% if it is serious
- 100% if it is very serious
The seriousness of the matter is judged by considering the behaviour of the trader, the impact it had on you and the time that has gone by since the event took place. A court will decide the amount of discount if your claim for redress is successful.
If you claim a discount from the trader, any other rights and responsibilities you have under the contract are not affected. The 'Sale & supply of goods: your consumer rights', 'Supply of services: your consumer rights' and the 'Supply of digital content: your consumer rights' guides give more information on the rights and remedies you have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services or digital content. '
Take note that if the product cost more than £5,000 then the percentage discount is calculated using the difference between the price you paid and the market price of the product (if there is clear evidence to show what the difference is).
RIGHT TO DAMAGES
If you suffer a financial loss because of the trader's misleading action or aggressive commercial practice, you are entitled to claim this from the trader as 'damages'. You are also entitled to claim damages for alarm, distress or physical inconvenience or discomfort that was caused to you. These damages have to be 'reasonably foreseeable'; in other words there should be a clear connection between the trader's actions and the financial loss and/or distress and inconvenience you are claiming for. However, if the trader can prove that the event occurred because of a mistake, because they relied on information given by someone else, it was someone else's fault, an accident or beyond their control and they made every effort to avoid the incident happening, then you would not have a right to damages. This is called a trader's 'due diligence' defence.
How do you claim your rights to redress?
You are entitled to take court action to claim your rights to redress. If your legal action succeeds, the court will make an order to confirm your right to unwind, to claim a discount and/or to claim damages and will also inform you of anything else you are required to do. The 'Thinking of suing in court?' and 'Writing an effective complaint' guides give more information or visit the 'Make a court claim for money' page of the GOV.UK website.
You can find out more from the Misleading and Aggressive Commercial Practices: New Private Rights for Consumers guide on the Gov.uk website. The guide is aimed at businesses but is a useful tool for consumers too.
- Key legislation
Last reviewed / updated: November 2019
- Please note
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.
For further information in England and Wales contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 2231133. In Scotland contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. Both provide free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues.
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