Consumer Protection (Enforcement) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Monday 16th November 2020

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Grand Committee

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Consumer Protection (Enforcement) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, the regulations were laid before the House on 14 September 2020. Our negotiations with the EU continue. As previously set out, we want a relationship with the EU based on friendly co-operation between sovereign equals and centred on a trading relationship based on free trade. These draft regulations form part of the important and necessary work being done to update our legislative framework in readiness for the end of the transition period. This will ensure that retained EU legislation continues to work effectively here in the UK.

The primary purpose of this statutory instrument is to update the 2019 EU exit regulations on consumer protection enforcement given changes in EU and domestic law since those regulations were considered and approved by this House on 15 January 2019. This SI does not alter the approach of the 2019 exit regulations; it merely enables them to work given those changes.

The 2019 exit regulations dealt with the collective redress regime for consumer protection laws. This regime applies where the infringement of certain consumer protection laws causes harm to the collective interests of consumers. It deals with systemic infringements of consumer law rather than any individual disputes.

The EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation, known as the CPC Regulation, provides for reciprocal arrangements between enforcement bodies in member states, such as the UK’s CMA. It allows them to investigate and, if requested by an enforcer in another member state, to take action to end cross-border infringements of EU consumer law which harm the collective interests of consumers.

In the UK, the Enterprise Act 2002 allows enforcers to seek court orders to ensure the cessation of and, where appropriate, redress for infringements causing collective harm. The 2019 exit regulations revoke the CPC Regulation, which will not apply to the UK once the UK is no longer bound by EU law. The revocation is also necessary to prevent UK enforcers being obliged to assist their EU counterparts while, of course, EU enforcers are not under the same obligation. The 2019 exit regulations also amend the 2002 Act to allow the domestic collective redress regime to function effectively once EU law no longer applies in the UK. Those regulations replace the concept of a Community infringement—the breach of consumer protection laws in the EEA—with a Schedule 13 infringement for breaches of UK consumer protection laws.

Since the 2019 exit regulations were made, a new EU CPC Regulation, the 2017 CPC Regulation, has come into force. This statutory instrument updates the 2019 exit regulations so that they revoke this new CPC Regulation. This new exit regulation ensures that the UK collective redress regime will continue to apply to those retained EU-derived consumer protection laws to which the 2017 CPC Regulation has been extended.

This statutory instrument also ensures that the 2019 exit regulations amend the new material added to the 2002 Act by the CPC implementation regulations. That new material includes express online interface powers under which the Competition and Markets Authority can seek court orders requiring the removal of online content from, or restriction of access to, websites. This statutory instrument will ensure that the 2019 exit regulations amend that Act as it stands now, and the improvements made to that Act are therefore retained. None of these changes alters the approach of the 2019 exit regulations.

This SI also makes a number of other changes to EU exit regulations relating to consumer protection. First, it makes a small number of changes to two previous UK-wide exit regulations that amend legislation relating to crystal glass, footwear and textiles. These are specified in the Northern Ireland protocol. These changes ensure that those regulations do not impact on the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Secondly, this SI makes technical changes to replace references to “exit day” with “IP completion day”, which will now be 31 December 2020, and is necessary in the context of the transitional provisions of those exit regulations.

Finally, this statutory instrument makes some minor amendments to clarify drafting in the Enterprise Act 2002. This is in response to the 14th report for this Session by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments in relation to this year’s regulations implementing the new CPC Regulation.

My departmental officials have undertaken the appropriate assessment of the impacts of this instrument on businesses and relevant bodies. This showed there is likely to be a negligible impact on business. These amendments do not bring about a wider policy change or impose any new liabilities or obligations on any relevant business, organisations or persons.

Although consumer protection is devolved in Northern Ireland, following consultation, the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland, has agreed for the SI to include Northern Ireland provisions which relate to areas that are devolved to Northern Ireland. Consumer protection is reserved for Scotland and Wales, although officials in both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have also been advised of these regulations and they have raised no objection.

This instrument is a sensible and necessary use of the powers of the withdrawal Act which will ensure that the law in this area continues to function effectively after the end of the transition period. I therefore commend the regulations to the Committee. 

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
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My Lords, the regulations being updated address systemic infringements of consumer law. Currently, they allow the Government to investigate and, if requested by another member state, take action to end cross-border infringements of EU consumer law that harm the collective interests of consumers. Consumer protection co-operation—the CPC regime—will ensure, as the Minister said, that the law in this area continues to function effectively after the transition period, not least through the CMA.

Unscrupulous trading practices have for too long been a feature in society, despite EU consumer law. It is right that UK standards should apply where EU-based traders target their activities in the UK. It is critical that the UK and the EU continue to work together to safeguard high standards of consumer protection once EU CPC regulation ceases to apply to the UK. This is critical in the context of ticket abuse. Here I declare my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, where I work with my impressive co-chair, Sharon Hodgson. Our aim is to promote and provide a forum for the discussion of issues relating to the sale and resale of tickets for events, with a particular focus on devising solutions to the problem of modern-day ticket touting.

If we are to be successful in this context we have to co-operate closely with our European colleagues. Together we adopted the first secondary ticketing law banning bots, which came into effect last December as part of the directive on better enforcement and modernisation of consumer protection rules. As FEAT—the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing—has argued, we need to establish a European watchdog that has the resources and powers to regulate online marketplaces, ensure compliance and issue effective penalties for breaches of law. The UK should still be part of that.

We need to put an end to the bulk-buying of tickets and resale at a higher price, which is still practised illegally by ignoring the terms of resale. That practice distorts the primary market, with tickets often selling out within moments of going on sale, only to be listed on secondary platforms at many times their face value. This is a huge business. The ticket resale market in Europe is estimated to be worth €12.14 billion last year.

I hope the Government will confirm that, in all their future dealings with the EU Commission, co-operating and liaising with our European friends will remain the highest priority, because this cross-border crime requires parallel and aligned legal frameworks and within-day co-operation. For that to happen, the CMA needs more powers from the Government on consumer protection. The CMA is more powerful when it comes to competition laws but does not have the same powers for consumer protection.

Does my noble friend agree that the time is overdue for the CMA to receive powers to impose fines? We need to change the powers of the CMA. It needs powers similar to those of National Trading Standards, or the police, to investigate cases with criminal powers. Consumer rights in this context are there to be protected, and wherever possible to be strengthened. There are still too many inadequacies in consumer protection law. It is not just consumers who suffer from modern-day ticket touts. Reputationally, sport, the music industry and the arts suffer as well.

In many respects these are framework regulations for the future, so I should like to set down one marker in particular. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, will recall that I have long believed that the only way we can address the worst excesses of corruption on the secondary market platforms is to have an individual booking reference on each ticket, and to enforce that requirement. That would enable an individual to check with event organisers whether a specific ticket was valid. Yet too often, enforcement is absent.

We have made progress with the details on tickets—the row, the seat, the face value, the age restrictions and the original seller—although those legal requirements are all too frequently flouted, again through lack of adequate enforcement. The regulations are limited and welcome in their objectives, and they are very specific. We now need parliamentary time and government commitment to address and update consumer protection in this country. The regulations are a welcome and necessary start, and I hope the Minister will be able to signal that the Government take these issues seriously, and intend to act once the transition period is over, while always working exceptionally closely with the European Union to ensure that, as far as possible, we take a harmonised and unified approach to this cross-border problem.

Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey (UUP) [V]
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In this Committee last week we discussed the Common Rules for Exports (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which deal with the Government’s ability to prevent the export of particular products in an emergency—such as PPE products being sent out of the UK. In his opening salvo then, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, talked about

“the ability of the EU Commission to exercise these powers in Northern Ireland.”—[Official Report, 10/11/20; col. GC 421.]

The Minister said that the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland had powers over consumer affairs in Northern Ireland; that is correct. What I want to find out from him is: who, in practice, will be making the totality of consumer law in Northern Ireland, and who will implement it? For instance, under the protocol we have a “zone of regulatory compliance”, consisting of the 27 EU member states plus Northern Ireland.

The issue, it seems to me, is that in the regulations before us there are specific references to Great Britain and not Northern Ireland. For the sake of clarification, can the Minister, in his winding-up speech, tell us whether the European Commission will have any role in consumer affairs in Northern Ireland, given that, after the IP completion day, it clearly will have a role in other areas? I do not quite understand how it is consistent with taking back control if what will, on 1 January, become a foreign power, is to exercise executive authority in a part of the United Kingdom.

Can the Minister assure the Committee that that will not be the case here? Or, because we now have a regulatory border in the Irish sea—which the Government continually try to deny exists—will the regulations continue to be made in Brussels, where we have no representation or say? If not, who will make them, for the parts of consumer law that are not dealt with by the devolved Administration?

It seems to me that there is so much potential with these SIs, which are so terribly complex and not things that the general public would normally have access to or an interest in, but which are exceptionally important. There is a big issue of principle here. Are we actually effecting significant constitutional change that is against the principles of the Good Friday agreement without the knowledge or consent of those who would be directly affected? I would be most obliged if the Minister would address those matters in winding up.

Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con)
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My Lords, I read this SI in the context of the internal markets Bill, which we are wrestling with on Report on Wednesday. I have a couple of questions. Paragraph 2.9 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to particular industries that were, in a sense, left out or were not ready at the right time. My eye fell particularly on “footwear”. I had the privilege of representing Northampton South, a town steeped in footwear, and still has the UK’s leading footwear brand in Church’s, along with a host of others and the ancillary trades that go with it. I also noticed the reference to “crystal glass”, because I go down to the west country quite often—and, of course, Dartington is also involved in crystal glass.

My first question is whether these new regulations for Northern Ireland affecting those two industries—and, presumably, textiles—mean that they are the same as regulations in the rest of GB, or are they different? It is not entirely clear from reading this what the situation is. Secondly, was there any response, when the new regulations were tabled, from any of the trade associations affected by these industries? Footwear is obviously one, and I am sure that there are trade associations for glass and textiles.

So that is that area—then there is paragraph 2.12. The question that arises in my mind is whether this measure means that the exit regulations are on the basis of no deal or a deal? In other words, it does not make any difference for paragraph 2.12 whether there is or is not a deal or no deal.

Just to make an observation on paragraph 2.14 in the context of the internal markets Bill, it says:

“Those sections provide that where a court in one Part of the United Kingdom makes an order under Part 8 of the 2002 Act that order is, in another part of the United Kingdom, to be treated as an order made by the court in that other part of the United Kingdom.”

It is so good to see that there, and well done to those involved in that process.

I have another small point, which is that I am never too sure what the definition is of a small business. It keeps coming up, and I would be grateful if somebody would write to me and tell me what the definition is within the department.

Finally, it is nice to see my colleague here, my noble friend Lord Moynihan. I suspect that he and I and perhaps one or two others are particularly involved in the world of sport. We know that industry extremely well. He is so right to raise the problems of ticket touting and resales. It is a growing problem and really needs tackling. If we are talking about increasing the powers of the CMA, that has to be done. I hope that my noble friend, who may not be able to give us a strong answer on that today, will recognise that this is a big and a growing problem. Given the size and importance of sport to British citizens, it really needs tackling.

Lord Bowness Portrait Lord Bowness (Con) [V]
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I thank my noble friend for his introduction of this instrument, one which was certainly needed for me. To follow all the cross-references proved very difficult, and I shall not pretend that I could do so in every case. In parenthesis, I wonder why this instrument, which is an amending instrument in respect of the earlier 2019 regulations, is not the subject of a consolidated instrument.

The whole thing is a very good example of how difficult it is properly to scrutinise what is going on in the Brexit proceedings. I am speaking this afternoon because I believe that consumer protection is an area on which Brexit may have considerable impact, and it is not mentioned very often. I do not believe that there is an awareness among people, whether for or against Brexit, who appreciate what may be lost without a comprehensive agreement with the European Union. I entirely endorse the call for co-operation with the EU 27 made by my noble friend Lord Moynihan.

I have some specific questions for my noble friend. If they are answered in the footnotes or in an equally opaque statutory instrument, I apologise. First, what is happening to the European Consumer Centres Network, which was created to provide advice if things go wrong with a cross-border purchase? Furthermore, what is the position of the UK European Consumer Centre, funded jointly by the UK and EU to give free advice to consumers who have bought goods or services in another EU country? Similarly, what is happening to the online dispute resolution platform, enabling consumers to locate suitable alternative dispute resolution providers to handle their complaints?

In an answer to a Written Question, my noble and learned friend Lord Keen of Elie told me

“Existing EU instruments in the area of civil judicial cooperation (including—

this is important—

“disputes in family and consumer matters) will continue to have effect between the UK and EU member states during the Implementation Period.”

There is no surprise about that. He went on to say:

“The position after 11pm on 31 December 2020 will depend on the outcome of negotiations”.

But where are we on that matter, apart from running out of time? I hope that my noble friend will be able to confirm that these are all matters that have been discussed and, although we may say that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, there is an agreement in principle to maintain these important areas.

I have put down Written Questions about a very important consumer right relating to air travel—namely, EU Regulation 261/2004, which deals with passenger rights in the event of flight delays and cancellations. I have been told by my noble friend Lady Vere of Norbiton, speaking from the Department for Transport, that the rules apply until 31 December. I think we have all got that message. She said that, after that date, the rules are

“retained in domestic law and will therefore continue to apply.”

I have great doubts as to whether this, being a regulation, can be retained without amendment and requiring some domestic legislation. I have asked about this but have not yet had a reply.

I understand that, as of 31 December, the EU law on passenger rights no longer applies to passengers departing from a UK airport to an airport in the EU 27, unless—and this is important—the airline is a union carrier. Yet again I ask, in a different forum, what is the position on that regulation, and how do the Government intend to replicate in full the rights currently enjoyed?

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I offer my thanks to the Minister for updating us and giving us the background to these regulations. It is clear that they update the legislative framework for consumer protection, and I note that their principal purpose is to make changes to a previous statutory instrument, the Consumer Protection (Enforcement) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

However, several questions arise as a result of this, and I would like to pose them to the Minister. The first is general: I have increasingly found that many, particularly older, people are subject to scamming. As a result of this, they could provide money to—shall we say—undisclosed sources, thinking that there could be problems ahead for themselves. Could the Minister detail whether this statutory instrument will prohibit this sort of activity or whether the Government are considering future legislation to deal with this element of consumer protection? This form of scamming is now happening on a continuous and persistent basis, leaving many people vulnerable, and it needs to be addressed.

In relation to the statutory instrument under discussion, do the Minister and the Government feel and assert that the provisions within these regulations are equal to, better than or substandard compared to the EU regulations that they seek to replace? How will this statutory instrument intersect with the common frameworks process? I declare an interest as a member of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee. The process is meant to allow devolved Administrations to come to a common approach on how they manage divergence. Following the enactment of this SI and bearing in mind the restrictive nature of some of the provisions within the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, will the devolved Administrations have a voice in any consultation on outlining frameworks for consumer protection?

I note that the Northern Ireland Assembly has given consent to the UK Government to legislate for it in respect of this piece of legislation, and that that involved it passing a legislative consent Motion. How do the Government intend to work with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly in relation to the general issue of consumer protection following the enactment of these regulations? How will the Northern Ireland protocol play in relation to these regulations, with specific reference to the regulation in Part 4B? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Empey, has already presented the political conundrum in relation to the protocol. I suggest that that should be further added to the common frameworks process.

With reference to the Northern Ireland protocol, and with particular reference crystal glass, footwear and textiles, these regulations have been redrafted to ensure that they do not affect the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol, according to the Explanatory Memorandum. I understand that that is important for ensuring that business can be pursued without being hindered or hampered.

There is also a need to ensure that flexibilities are inbuilt to ensure that Northern Ireland retailers and consumers are protected, are not subject to undue prohibitions or severe tariffs as a result of the protocol and do not end up in prohibitive lists. Can the Minister assure me that this not will be the case and that business activity and transactions can take place unhindered, that consumers would still have access to high-quality goods and that their rights will be protected at all times?

Finally, with regard to the views of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on defective drafting, with special reference to the Enterprise Act 2002, to allow lower and superior courts in all UK jurisdictions to make interim and final online interface orders as part of that enforcement, is the Minister confident that these are now adequately drafted and will be resistant to legal challenge?

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I do not need to detain this Committee long. My noble friend the Minister has done an excellent job of explaining these regulations. I spent most of my working life in retail, as the fourth generation in our family store, which sadly no longer exists. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Naseby would be delighted to know that we stocked Church’s shoes as well as Dartington glass and many very good quality items from Northern Ireland. As a result, I have always taken a keen interest in consumer rights. I hope that we always put consumers at the forefront of our service commitment and would always go further than any legal requirement. Of course, consumer law is not always clearly written, but that is not relevant to this particular discussion today.

As far as I can see, these regulations are only relevant to ensuring that

“reciprocal arrangements for Member States to cooperate in investigations and enforcement actions in the case of cross-border infringements of consumer laws causing collective harm to consumers”

that are in force up to exit day can continue. Can my noble friend confirm that, with the passing of this instrument, regardless of whether there is no deal, consumer rights in the UK will not be affected in any way as a result of us leaving the European Union? I understand that this is being brought in

“to allow domestic legislation on collective redress to function effectively in relation to EU-derived consumer law after EU exit.”

Presumably, however, if our consumer law is tougher than the EU law, this redress is not applicable.

Finally, I wonder how many UK consumers are actually aware, in any case, of these rights and where they could find out about them more and have them explained in a simple way to understand them within the current regulations? Even with my noble friend’s excellent introduction, I have to say that it is all rather confusing.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab) [V]
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I also thank the Minister for his excellent introduction to this statutory instrument. I know that he will be unsurprised by the two issues I will raise. First, I raise the question of the full involvement of the devolved Administrations in the adoption as well as the monitoring and enforcement of aspects of the emerging new architecture of our cross-UK market. It is particularly important, given that this measure amends the Enterprise Act 2002, to ensure that consumer-protection-related enforcement orders are recognised across all four Administrations. As they need to operate there, the CMA will, obviously, also have a role, which I think strengthens the case we will make shortly, on the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, about why the devolved Administrations should be represented on the CMA. It is clearly going to be important that there is joined-up thinking about this.

During our membership of the EU, as the Minister probably knows better than most, the many very welcome consumer protection measures were always agreed via the Council, Commission and European Parliament, so all parties that had a subsequent duty to implement any such rules were party to their determination. We will want to be very sure, as we enter our new arrangement for an internal market, where consumers also need appropriate protection, on standards, complaint handling and redress, that any provisions are developed with the full involvement of the four Governments and legislatures that would then have to adopt and work with such measures. Could the Minister outline the involvement of the three devolved authorities, in the case of this instrument, and how future measures will be handled across the four nations?

I was particularly interested by the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, about whether this should be added to the list of the common frameworks, if it is not already. Hopefully, consumer protection can be such a framework, but I am also hoping that, on Wednesday, we will be able to support the amendment that I know will be proposed so that common frameworks would be included in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. It seems that this would be a very good way of ensuring that consumer protection is automatically, if you like, handled in that very consensual way. That was my first point about the devolved authorities.

Secondly, I want to take up the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Bowness and Lord Randall, and others about how consumers have benefited enormously from a swathe of measures introduced in the EU, affecting trade across the borders between us and other EU countries and raising standards, protections and rights within each country. The consultative way of producing directives may have taken time across the EU, but it meant that consumer representatives were able to engage with the process both here in the UK, by working with our Government, and through pan-European consumer groups in relation to both the Commission and the European Parliament. I am sure that the Minister was often lobbied by consumer interests when he was there. Those representatives were also able to work with UKRep. Can the Minister detail what discussions have been held with Which? and other consumer organisations in relation to this instrument? Can he also outline the Government’s plan to involve them in future preparation of regulations relating to their area?

I want briefly to touch on two other things. The first is redress, which has been mentioned. We have a bit of a hotchpotch in this country at the moment. Some bits of redress come under the Minister’s department—a number of different departments, actually. Plans for a public sector ombudsman were with the Cabinet Office, I think, but have gone nowhere. I understand that the Government are rather busy at the moment, but it would be useful if this could be looked at at some point because it is an important part of consumer protection. Specifically, there was a directive that consumers should be informed of the relevant redress system for their industry, even where a provider was not part of it. It would be interesting to know what will happen to that.

Finally, I want to add my name to the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Naseby. Things like the ripping off of consumers through ticket touts and bots is bad for consumers and involves a lot of criminality. I hope that the Minister has heard those pleas for action on this matter and a strengthening of the CMA’s powers to deal with this and other issues.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who contributed to this debate.

Of course, the UK has left the EU to take back control on these and other matters and make decisions as a sovereign independent state. As I said in my opening speech, since the 2019 exit regulations on consumer protection enforcement were made, a new CPC regulation has come into force. This statutory instrument is therefore necessary to update the 2019 exit regulations so that the new CPC regulation is revoked. As I also said earlier, it also makes a small number of changes to two other exit regulations so that they do not have an impact on the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol. These amendments will allow the domestic collective redress regime to function effectively once EU law no longer applies in the UK. They will prevent UK enforcers being required to assist EU counterparts who are not under the same obligation. I reiterate that none of these changes alters the approach of the 2019 exit regulations.

I can confirm for the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, that we have one of the strongest consumer protection regimes in Europe. It ensures that consumers’ interests are safeguarded with a comprehensive set of consumer rights and through strong advocates for consumer interests and other well-developed advice services. Of course, we remain firmly committed to the strong consumer rights and high standards that have benefited UK consumers for many years; these regulations do not change that. The political declaration between the UK and EU sets out the parties’ determination to continue working together to safeguard high standards of consumer protection; the UK remains fully committed to this undertaking.

We are continuing and enhancing global co-operation on consumer protection through our trade policy and through the CMA continuing to take an active role in many international fora. Our recently signed trade agreement with Japan illustrates this and includes consumer co-operation measures that go beyond those in the EU-Japan agreement, for instance.

My noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Naseby and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, referred to the ticket resale market and the importance of co-operation with the EU; I know that my noble friend Lord Moynihan in particular has been an extremely influential voice on this issue. The CMA has already taken enforcement action under UK consumer law against foreign-based secondary ticketing websites, such as Viagogo and StubHub, and enforcements of these provisions do not rely on the CPC network.

The domestic enforcement powers that we currently have will be retained. For instance, a new online interface order remains available to our enforcers; among other things, it allows a court to order the removal of content or restrict access to websites and software used by traders in selling services. Effective co-operation on consumer protection will be an important part of the UK’s future relationship and is of course in the interests of all parties. The CMA will continue to take an active role in many of the international fora that regulate these matters. We will look at the CMA’s powers of enforcement, but they are separate from this instrument; my department is engaging directly with the CMA on that question.

The noble Lord, Lord Empey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked about the EU’s role in making consumer law in Northern Ireland. These regulations will ensure that three specific EU-derived laws—relating to crystal glass, footwear and textiles—continue to apply as required under the Northern Ireland protocol. Most consumer protection law is not affected by the protocol. Going forward, the UK Government will set the rules overall, subject to commitments in the protocol.

My noble friend Lord Naseby asked about footwear and related issues. In Great Britain, these regulations will continue to be subject to amendments made by previous exit SIs, which are largely narrow and technical, as the Northern Ireland protocol does not apply in this area. Substantial divergence in the GB and Northern Ireland protocol rules is not currently envisaged.

I will reply in writing to my noble friend Lord Naseby’s question on the definition of small and micro-businesses.

My noble friend Lord Bowness noted the complexity of the rules. I agree with him on this one. It is a technical area, but we have had a good discussion today. We have produced a substantial amount of explanatory material, but if he does not feel he has enough and wants to write to me, I would be happy to send him even more of it if he wishes for some bedtime reading.

We want consumers and businesses to continue to feel confident and empowered in cross-border transactions. The Government have committed to fund the UK European Consumer Centre for at least another year after the transition period ends to help consumers resolve cross-border disputes. We will use this time to assess the most effective way to provide consumers with advice about cross-border purchases in future.

My noble friend also raised passenger rights, which, as I am sure he understands, is not addressed by the instrument. As he probably also understands, consumer protection for flight passengers is a matter being considered by the Department for Transport. I know that he is in correspondence about it with my noble friend Lady Vere, who is a Minister in that department.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, asked about protection for older people at risk of scamming. We have worked closely with Citizens Advice to run a National Consumer Week to help raise awareness of scams. I totally agree that this is a vital piece of work. On her point about consultation with Northern Ireland, this has been central to the formation of the SI, as I indicated. We will of course continue to engage with Northern Ireland and the other devolved Administrations, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked, in response to the future development of consumer law.

On the rectification of problems raised by the JCSI on the previous 2020 regulations, we are satisfied that the redrafting of the previous regulations reported by the JCSI now satisfactorily deals with its concerns. It has of course received the usual pre-laying quality assurance procedures.

My noble friend Lord Randall asked about domestic consumer law. This will be retained in full as a result of a series of these exit-related SIs and, of course, by our domestic legislation regime, which, as he notes, in many cases already exceeds that required by EU rules.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, further asked about devolved issues. I mentioned that we contacted the Northern Ireland Government on these measures and no concerns were raised. The Department for the Economy confirmed its agreement on 28 April. Although consumer protection is of course reserved in Scotland and Wales, officials in both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have been advised about these regulations and have not raised any objections. Northern Ireland has consumer protection and enforcement devolved to it, as I said. Consumer protection is reserved for Scotland and Wales, but we always look to engage with these devolved bodies on any new measures required.

Finally, the noble Baroness asked about engagement with Which? I have certainly spoken to it about other matters, but not these particular regulations. We hold regular discussions with it and others, such as Citizens Advice, to help shape our consumer policy and, in particular, to understand the impact of the current pandemic on consumers. It will continue to be a vital stakeholder for the work of my department.

In conclusion, these regulations will ensure our consumer rights framework continues to function effectively once the EU CPC regulation ceases to apply to the UK. With that, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Barker) (LD)
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The Grand Committee stands adjourned until 5 pm. I remind Members to sanitise their desks and chairs before leaving the Room.

Sitting suspended.