Trade laws


‘Trade’, or ‘trading’, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services. This can include, for example, a company engaged in selling products to the general public, or a law firm providing legal services to the public. Those engaging in trading are governed and regulated by trade laws.

What are trade laws?

Trade practices law is designed to prevent unfair trade practices and protect consumers and businesses. The law on this subject comes from various different sources. For example:

  • Parliament enacts laws on unfair trading and competition between businesses
  • Unfair trading practices law is also derived from EU law. If the unfair trading practice affects more than one EU member state, EU law will become applicable

UK trade law aims to mirror and implement EU law. UK regulations can be brought in to do this. For example, recently the Consumer Protection for Unfair Trading Regulations was brought in to implement an EU directive.

The Regulations apply to business and consumer transactions and impose a general duty not to trade unfairly. The Regulations ban all forms of:

  • Unfair advertising
  • Unfair marketing
  • Other unfair trading practices used by businesses to attract consumers

Another example of a trade law designed to protect consumers from unfair trade practices is the rules that apply to online selling. When traders sell to consumers online they must follow a range of regulations. For example, they must adhere to data protection and confidentiality law.

Other safeguards are imposed to prevent those who trade unfairly online. For example, under the Distance Selling Regulations, consumers have a right to cancel goods after purchasing them online.

The Sale of Goods Act

In the UK, there are trade laws to protect and empower consumers who buy faulty products from a business. An example of such a law is the Sale of Goods Act. Under this Act, a consumer can reject goods purchased if those goods are not of a satisfactory quality or fit for their common purpose.

As an example, you buy a relatively new car from a car dealership. The car breaks down within one week of purchasing it due to faulty parts. Under trade laws (in this case the Sale of Goods Act), you may have a right to return the car and claim your money back. You may also be able to sue the car trader for any losses you have suffered.

Trade laws do not apply to everyone. They usually only apply to those who are trading as part of their business. If in the example above, the seller of the vehicle was a private individual, the Sale of Goods legislation may not apply fully to the contract. This is because for the legislation to apply, the seller must be “acting in the course of their usual business.”

For more detailed information on the Sale of Goods Act, see our page on refunding faulty goods.

Do you have a consumer dispute that has been affected by trade law? Whether it is in the UK or abroad, Caven works with a network of specialist consumer law solicitors who can help you file a complaint or resolve a dispute you have with a trader. Please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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