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Law commissions of Scotland and England and Wales consulting on reforming contracts affecting consumers

Date: (25 July 2012)    |    

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The Scottish Law Commission has launched a consultation on proposed changes to unfair terms and conditions hidden in the small print of contracts affecting consumers.

The commission wants the contract to be simpler.
The commission said competition for customers, fuelled by developments such as price comparison websites, meant some traders were hiding the true cost of a contract in the small print.
Budget airlines, phone companies and gyms could be forced to make the small print of contracts clearer under proposals to reform the law.
Loopholes used by companies to bury extra charges and payments could be closed under plans unveiled today by the Law Commission, the independent legal review body.
The consultation is being carried out jointly by the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission, which covers England and Wales.
Both the bodies had made recommendations for reform in 2005, which were accepted in principle but were never implemented.
Each year consumers sign up to a variety of contracts for things such as mobile phones, gym memberships and household utilities.
The commission wants to reduce the liability for unexpected charges.
It also wants important information like total price and details of the services being offered to be clearly visible on any contract, and presented in a way most consumers would understand.
Scottish Law Commissioner, Prof Hector Mac Queen, said that the commission was proposing a new approach to unfair terms which would assist consumers and traders alike.
He said that in the consultation document, it has been acknowledged that few customers bother to read terms and conditions of contracts before signing.
They say that consumers often get locked into long contracts or are forced to pay extra charges because they are hidden in the small print or written in unclear English.
If successful, the proposals would mean consumers would be able to challenge companies over extra fees and clauses if they were not displayed prominently and transparently.
The commission wants to hear the views of consumers and traders. The consultation runs till 25 October.