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EU wants UK to ditch credit card safeguards

Consumers at risk from conmen and scams as Europe seeks to overturn British law

UK laws that protect credit card users could soon be a thing of the past if the European Union has its way.

Under section 75 of the UK's Consumer Credit Act, card issuers and retailers are liable if anything goes wrong with a transaction costing between £100 and £30,000. The clause is there to act as a safeguard for consumers, protecting them from rogue traders and credit card scams.

But as part of its long-term strategy to harmonise member state laws, the European Commission wants to remove Section 75 from the Consumer Credit Act.

"The rest of Europe does not have this protection. UK law does not follow the norm and unfortunately certain current legal rights will have to be sacrificed in favour of EU legislation," said an EU spokeswoman.

But even from a retailer's point of view the changes could be bad news. Although liability would shift from them back to the consumer, customers may be reluctant to perform transactions, especially online, with no guarantees or insurance.

"Consumers would definitely feel out in the cold and may be reluctant to use their credit card at all [if Section 75 were removed]," said a spokesman at the Consumers Association.

Just last month HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland extended their liability under Section 75 to cover overseas transactions. But many providers are still sidestepping their duties under the Act by inserting liability and exclusion clauses. The removal of Section 75 would effectively leave consumers out in the cold to fight their own battles.

The EU proposals are still being penned and the good news is that an uproar at these early stages could stop the plans.

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