/ Travel & Leisure

What happens to vital consumer protections after Brexit?

Many areas of our lives, including healthcare abroad, keeping our homes warm and travel rights, are protected by EU laws that need much greater attention during Brexit negotiations. That’s why we’ve launched our Consumer Charter.

Politicians have been playing Punch and Judy over Brexit for the past 18 months – and it’s true that there is plenty to fight about. Yet for all the undoubted drama, some of the most important issues affecting our lives in this country have barely been discussed.

New Brexit charter for consumers

These issues include the EU rules that ensure imported food is safe, that give us access to vital healthcare for ourselves and our children in neighbouring countries, and which give us cheap phone calls abroad. Even airline travel would, for a while at least, become extremely difficult.

That’s why today we’ve launched our Consumer Charter – and called on the government to embrace our blueprint for protecting our rights.

We want to work with ministers and with businesses to stop important consumer rights from being diluted or, worse still, lost entirely if negotiations go badly wrong.

Flight confusion

We recently contacted the UK’s five biggest travel companies (Thomas Cook, TUI, Jet 2, Expedia, and On the Beach) to see what information they were providing about the possible status of flights being booked for travel after the UK has left the EU. We found that it wasn’t clear what the consequences of an aviation deal not being in place once the UK leaves the EU would be.

This could leave holidaymakers who are booking holidays from 29 March 2019 in limbo. We want the government to make sure the same level of access is maintained after Brexit and provide clarity as soon as possible about consumers’ rights and airline obligations.

Time to work together

This uncertainty for holidaymakers is just one of the many issues affecting our everyday lives that needs to be a priority as we move closer to the date that we leave the EU. We want to work with government and businesses on these issues to help deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.

This is not to reach a judgment about a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit or any kind of Brexit. Just a plea that the interests of ordinary consumers get the priority they deserve.

At a minimum, we should fight to maintain what we currently have in place in all areas that affect consumers. In an ideal world, we will improve the situation of consumers.

Consumer needs must come first

Which? research has shown that many people haven’t really considered any of these issues. Our fear is that some of our politicians haven’t sufficiently considered them, either. And we cannot sweep these critical consumer issues under the carpet and just expect everything to work out.

We have set out a Charter that we believe will put consumers first in Brexit negotiations and provides solutions on what can be done to improve how our systems currently work.

The Charter sets out more detailed priorities that need immediate action from government to make Brexit a success. These concentrate on the areas of consumer landscape, food, energy, travel and transition – highlighting not just the potential risks for consumers, but the opportunities to improve our existing systems as we leave the EU.

What are your views?

Do you support our Charter? What consumer issues would you like the government to address in its negotiations?

This is an edited version of an article that recently appeared on This is Money.


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Good. Well let’s just get on with tackling Amazon, shall we, and leave these other political issues for the government to deal with? So far Which? has shown no inclination to take any decisive action so your support is welcome.

My previous comment (above) was inappropriate here. I had not realised we were in a different Conversation.

I’m not so sure it is inappropriate. Part of Which?’s Charter is about protecting consumers from unsafe products, so this is relevant. Which? need to also fulfil their role in helping this happen.

We need english fishing right & stop the blouted eu taking our fish. We need our own fishing rights back . Wish mrs may would just walk away with out a deal . This is now twice I have voted to leave. We never should have joined .

You voted twice?

don’t you mean British Suzanne Jansen ?

Neville Dalton says:
15 March 2018

Despite the inconvenient FACT that most of the fish caught in “British waters” is sold to EU countries. Very little comes into the home market, unless you can buy from the boat!

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As with other countries I presume travel insurance will be the fall back to cover health, but the EU may be equally concerned that their citizens get treatment on favourable terms in the UK.

I suspect there are more important concerns than European holidays. We must remember that we are commercially valuable to Europe, and I doubt very much whether their holiday industry would allow barriers to be put in the way by the childish negotiators.

The negotiations are in a silly posturing phase at the moment. I think we need to wait longer while the clouds clear. Meantime, Which? says it has access to Government and I hope it will be keeping tabs on what goes on and putting the consumer view forward.

I don’t see the point in putting an article like this that lacked substance in the Mail on Sunday.

Hello Malcolm, if you’d like the detail, here is a PDF link to our full Consumer Charter for Brexit

You can also find it broken down here: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/brexit/

We launched the Charter at an event today at Which? HQ, which had MPs in attendance. We live-tweeted the event, which you can see here: https://twitter.com/WhichUK

It’s certainly ambitious but extremely well done, Patrick. Let’s hope its aspirations are realised.

I agree Malcolm.

We voted to get back control of our Laws and decide what we want for our country. Which? knows that all EU law is being transcribed into UK law and is slowly making its way through parliament. WE should push for that to happen and not for parties and individuals to barn storm their personal views on what the British people voted to obtain.

Real clarity (which people keep asking for) is to tell the EU what our final sticking point is – not a good way to conduct talks with anyone.

We’d like all those things given in the excellent Consumer Charter, but the problem I currently see is that the EU negotiators do not want us to have many of the benefits described – cherry picking they’ve called it – presumably because it would set a precedent, and other dissatisfied states might try to follow the same route. So they want to punish us, in a way. At least, that is the public face of the negotiations, but I doubt it represents the reality.

I expect as the time draws near that common sense will eventually take over from the posturing and that the UK will capitalise on its positions of strength. We contribute to the commercial health of the EU, in or out, provide strong defence, have industries and services they need, and a large consumer market that I would expect the EU states will want to feed.

It would be useful to look at what advantages consumers might gain if and when we implement Brexit. Perhaps we should see this as an opportunity?

Ian says:
14 March 2018

Consumer protections, environmental productions, and workers rights will be decimated after Brexit. This is the oft quoted “red tape that is holding back business”.

Too many are saying WILL do they know something that no one else knows ? say COULD or MIGHT if you want to put your point across but WILL when you do not know Too many say will and it never does happen to many things or another word to use is MAYBE I still like your funnies Ian whatever you opinions MIGHT be

Different Ian, I think, Bishbut!

Probably 2an

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Duncan: “It says the UK government is trying to pass a new law about how POST-Brexit trade will work and part of it says that the British public will NOT get a say on trade deals “

That’s not what it says. What it says is the opposite, in fact: through the campaigning group the pubic will have a say and do have power.

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Hello, you might like this video of Robin Walker MP, Minister of Department for Exiting the European Union, filmed at the launch of our Consumer Charter:


Duncan: I was simply correcting your statement. If you want to debate another point, then make it a separate topic.

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Les says:
14 March 2018

Every right and standard we currently enjoy in the EU should be maintained, and when the EU improve those rights and standards ours should also be improved. Unfortunately this government is full of people who don’t respect those rights and standards

From all my wife and I have heard post the referendum, BREXIT will only make us poorer in the short and medium term and what happens long term is in the clouds. Most high tech companies particularly in Aerospace work across Europe. At the moment components items being built such as satellites will enter and leave Britain several times including purchases and testing in specialist test rigs. Currently this can be arranged within 24hrs with little more paper work than sending items to and from another UK city. Similarly specialist staff can be brought over from or sent to Europe without any need to worry about work permits etc. BREXIT has already increased or weekly shopping bills by around 3 to 5% due to the fall in the value of the ÂŁ. We should have a chance for a second vote now the problems are with BREXIT have become clear.

Heard from WHO ? , you seem to have only heard have you heard the true facts or even all of them or are you just hearing those who oppose Brexit ? Where you for or against it from the start ? All you are saying there could be problems not that there will be like many of those who were anti-brexit from the start We will just have wait and then see ! I have also heard but do not KNOW yet

From my knowledge from within the pharmaceutical industry, from discussions with my son in the aerospace industry, from the Confederation of British Industry (with the exception of Sir James Dyson), from discussions on TV from articles in the middle of the road newspapers (where some journalists do give pro Brexit views and provide balance), the news that France and Germany are gleeful at the opportunity to get the finance companies to transfer a significant part of our international banking. We have to remember that we rely on money raised by our banking expertise, and high tec industries, to pay for a very significant part of our social support and NHS. Not to mention of course our reliance on a large number EU medical staff within our hospitals.
I do agree the EU needs reforming but from within.
Colin W

Sorry I had to leave. Your asked how I voted. I was not a great fan of the EU and was in two minds but would probably have voted stay on the basis of, if in doubt support the status quo. I spoke to my middle- aged children and grandchildren on the basis that what ever happened it would affect them more than me. They were totally for staying in. Therefore that is the way I voted. I think a recent Treasury report indicated the cost of leaving would be high. However,I did not read it in detail.
Colin W

I believe we should ALL get behind Theresa May and support her to get the best deal for the UK, instead of behaving like bickering school kids. We were Great Britain before joining the Common Market and will be again, IF we stop betraying our country!

Nobody is “betraying our country”, we are having a democratic debate, part of which is to offer dissent.
If the case for brexit is so great, why haven’t all the remain voters changed their minds and come flocking to TM’s support? A similar argument, of course, could be applied to the opposite change of heart.

We will not really know what might happen until the whole thing is over and we have left the EU after the vote many said many things even though no one knew what might happen at all . Wait until nearer the time it will happen there is plenty of time for everything to change Make your suggestions but do not this or that WILL happen when no one knows if it ever will it’s only might or could as yet

I cannot fault the Which? Consumer Charter for Brexit but I have no way of knowing what impact it will have on our government.

It’s particularly encouraging to see food safety and quality mentioned. My biggest concern about the long term effect of Brexit is over environmental issues, where the UK has benefited greatly from EU input. It is vital that we continue to safeguard our rivers, which supply much of our drinking water. We have been exceeding air quality pollution limits in our cities despite pressure from the EU and goodness knows what will happen if we are left to our own devices. From this morning’s news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43405684

Hi Peter – Thanks for responding to comments in this Conversation. I do hope that the government does listen to the views of Which? on our behalf.

I and others would like some positive proposals from Which? on specific issues. For example, in your earlier Conversation on product safety, it’s great that Which? is pushing our government to publish an Action Plan for the new independent Office for Product Safety and Standards, but some of us would like to see some specific suggestions concerning the actions that would be needed to create a recall system that would ensure that consumers would be informed if they had owned a recalled product: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/product-safety-regime-beis-government/

There is also issue of Trading Standards that is no longer effective at helping individuals over individual safety and other issues thanks to chronic underfunding by successive governments. Trading Standards would have to work closely with the new OPSS.

As Brexit progresses I’m sure that there will be many other opportunities for Which? to offer specific rather than advice to our government.

Peter, as have wavechange and others, I’ve been pushing for constructive proposals from Which? to implement a proper product recall system based on compulsory registration and to reinvigorate a local Trading Standards organisation together with one to deal with national issues (like Whirlpool, Currys, VW).

It would be useful if Which? responded to these proposals, and I hope they will also keep us up to date with progress in working with the government on behalf of consumers.

It would also be nice to see home-grown food supported and promoted.

We know that cars emit more pollution on the road than in the lab. We also know how to reduce pollution in towns and cities – minimise the entry of petrol and diesel vehicles at certain times and provide decent clean public transport. Being part of, and “regulated” by, the EU has not achieved this. It is up to the UK to make the difficult decisions; it is just as likely, or not, to do this on its own as under the EU umbrella.

David J. Ll. Davies says:
15 March 2018

The most important thing for me is that the U.K. leaves the phenomenally UNDEMOCRATIC E.U. and the single market AND the customs union which is what a clear MAJORITY VOTED for. Are we still a democratic state? Have the Remainers given up on democracy?

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It was a bare majority, David, and that would assume that every single one of those who voted to leave the EU supported the full hard-Brexit proposition. In a democracy it is necessary to tolerate and accommodate the opposition and not insult or offend their principled position. I believe the dogmatic attitude of many Brexiteers is the reason for some of the hostility towards them.

There is no reason why a second referendum once the exit terms and conditions are fully known should offend against democratic principles and I suspect that the objection to it is often due to fear of an upset.

I voted to Remain [I was in the 60/40 bracket] but have been reconciled to leaving ever since the vote. However, I am annoyed by some of the behaviour on the hard pro-Brexit side so it wouldn’t take much to turn my mind against it and the possibility of a second chance in due course to make the decision has a certain appeal.

John, are you equally annoyed by the apparent attitude of the EU negotiators or do you regard this as just tactics in public while beneath the surface reasonable discussion is taking place? I hope it is the latter because I see it in no one’s interests, assuming Brexit happens, to have it done in a negative and vindictive way.

I am aware that there are other countries in the EU who are not enamoured with their membership. I suspect the EU is afraid of the consequences of giving the UK a sensible exit in case others decide they might follow.

Oh yes, very much so, Malcolm. I think the public posturing by the EU has been appalling and very damaging to proper and decent negotiation. How an organisation can treat with such contempt one of its more important members amazes me – especially as they probably hope we might change our minds. How could we now? – and sit down alongside such resentful and hostile people? As you say, it has been exceedingly negative and vindictive. Obviously, “pour encourager les autres” is a large factor in the showboating that is taking place. I hope that behind the scenes sensible and responsible negotiations are going on – this has probably been choreographed to include some rough-&-tumble and some nasty -v- nice stuff.

I think the EU should spend a bit more time considering the real consequences of our departure – the loss of a huge proportion of its disposable income, the implications for continued economic development in certain regions, the loss of free movement of people, the reduction of the consumer market as other opportunities open up, and the decline in the EU’s status and capacity [despite the bravado]. They also need to appreciate that, forever after, the EU institutions will be haunted by the continuation of the English language in most of their deliberations.

I’m unsure how much of what we see is down to highly selective reporting by the News media that backed Leave; most of Murdock’s did, since he finds it too hard to control an entire continent but much easier when it’s just the UK.

But one sentence of yours did make me smile:

How an organisation can treat with such contempt one of its more important members amazes me – especially as they probably hope we might change our minds.

For a moment, I wasn’t sure of whom you were talking. It could so easily apply to the MPs, the Europeans, the average car sales room – a pretty long list, really.

For anyone uncertain of who is referred to in this Brexit debate by “one of its more important members” one that “they probably hope… might change our minds”, it is the UK, not the average car sales room. Thought I’d clear that up for the confused.

I like the clock at the top of this Conversation. Where can I get one [although only a complete one will be acceptable]?

EUCLOCK has a budget of €16 m. Maybe they can supply one? https://www.euclock.org/

The news for those wanting to drive on the continent after leaving isn’t wonderful.

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I voted to Remain.
The cost of leaving is just too great.
Up to 4 Million Jobs!
Best to Remain and reform the EU from within.
We could do this if we elected to be led by some capable politicians.
Our present political leaders have no clue about what to do, no idea of the truth, and are all unsuited to their jobs. A credible alternative? Not visible yet, unfortunately.
But leaving is awful.

Reforming the EU hasn’t gone too well has it? Nothing seems to stop the creeping federalism that few nations want and fewer signed up for.

I voted Remain. But I am a democrat and am supporting a courage’s Prome Minister who also voted Remain but is determined to get the best deal possible for the UK.

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The common market was a good idea but it turned into the monster EU

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