HC Deb 30 April 1998 vol 311 cc241-2W
Mr. Hopkins

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the outcome of the EU Consumers Council held on 23 April. [40805]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths

The Government achieved its key Presidency objective in the consumer field when the Council agreed by a qualified majority a common position on a proposal for a directive on the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees.

The directive provides European consumers with common minimum rights when goods are faulty. In addition to their existing rights to return faulty goods and to claim damages, UK consumers will gain the following benefits: a clear right to repair or replacement, except where this is impossible or disproportionate, where the defect appears within two years of delivery; in the absence of proof to the contrary, a defect appearing within six months will be presumed to have existed at delivery; the law will provide that manufacturers' guarantees are legally binding.

In providing common rights the directive should give consumers greater confidence to shop in other Member States and benefit from the Single Market. At the same time it will provide remedies which are fair and reasonable, reflecting the approach most UK traders already adopt in fulfilling their legal obligations. The Directive makes all retailers liable for defects which are shown to have been present at the time of delivery and which become apparent within two years of delivery. Liability will be subject, amongst other criteria, to consideration of what can be reasonably expected from a product. For example, expectations will be different for perishable goods. The Directive gives the remedies of price reduction or rescission of the contract where repair and replacement of faulty products are, for example, not possible.

The Council also adopted the directive on injunctions for the protection of consumers' interests.

The Commission gave presentations on: the effective application and enforcement of Community consumer legislation; its plans for the continuation of the European Home and Leisure Accidents Surveillance System (EHLASS); its proposals for the introduction of a voluntary scheme to facilitate out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes; a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council establishing a general framework for Community activities in favour of consumers.

Two "A" points were agreed. A request by the European Parliament for a one-month extension of its examination of a directive on genetically modified organisms and a draft common position relating to preparation of the Non Proliferation Treaty.