Unfair marketing practices have become a criminal offence under the new Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which came into force on Monday.
The laws are aimed at protecting consumers from unfair, misleading or aggressive marketing techniques and ban any commercial practices that fail to make a trader’s commercial intent clear.
Offences such as possessing fake credentials, falsely claiming to be a signatory to a code of conduct and displaying a trust mark without authority are punishable by two years in prison.
In total, 31 practices are deemed unfair in all circumstances and for the first time in the UK, spam has been made a criminal offence.
The regulations stipulate that “making persistent and unwanted solicitations by telephone, fax, e-mail or other remote media except in circumstances and to the extent justified to enforce a contractual obligation” is now unlawful.
Restrictions have also been place on the word “free”, the use of which is banned in advertising when a consumer has to pay “anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding, collecting or paying for delivery of the item”.