Group wants action over small print

THE NUMBER of court actions brought over misleading “small print” in consumer contracts could escalate if a campaign by lawyers is successful.

The Consumers' Association is campaigning to make it easier for victims to seek redress through the courts.

Association lawyers are challenging a government regulation which prevents anyone but the Office of Fair Trading from taking legal action over small print.

Now they have won the backing of a High Court judge to challenge the Department of Trade and Industry's Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1994.

Mr Justice Sedley's decision that the association's case was “clearly arguable” may pave the way for a plethora of lawsuits being brought to the civil courts.

Sheila McKechnie, the consumer body's newly-appointed director, says: “This is an issue of enormous importance. Small print robs consumers of basic rights when it comes to many aspects of everyday life.”

Examples of confusing small print include: clauses which mean timeshare buyers can only seek redress in Manx courts, booking terms for the QE2 cruises which allow owners Cunard to put customers on a different vessel and small print in cycling tour contracts in which the owners disclaim all responsibility for illness, injury or death.

The move is the first time the association has sought a court review of a State decision in its 38-year history.