Under § 2e CPA, a consumer is a person that, outside his/her commercial or technical capacity, purchases, orders, receives or uses a good or for whom a service is carried out, and additionally is the addressee of product information or an offer in relation to the good or service.
§ 2i of the Consumer Protection Act states:
“Consumer transactions: the sale of goods or the provision of services, as well as the sending of free samples or products directly to the consumer as the end recipient.”
In the case in question, a public limited company lodged a complaint with the Consumer Protection Authority about the failure of a seller to properly process customer complaints in relation to the purchase of telephone handsets. The Authority refused to investigate the complaint on the grounds that it fell outside its jurisdiction. In giving reasons for the decision, it explained that the plaintiff was not a consumer as per § 2e of the 1997 Consumer Protection Act and as such was not entitled to lodge a complaint with the Consumer Protection Authority (first instance).
In answering the appeal against the decision, the Consumer Protection Authority’s appeal body ruled that while the term “consumer” under the Consumer Protection Act can encompass businesses, this only applies if they are not acting in a commercial capacity. In the case in question, the plaintiff was acting directly or indirectly in a commercial capacity.
The plaintiff subsequently filed an appeal with the Court of First Instance. The court overturned both rulings by the Consumer Protection Authority and ordered a re-examination by the Authority’s first instance body. In giving its reasons, the court explained that, if one were to follow the Authority’s understanding of the law, any procurement activity by a company would be automatically excluded because the company would invariably be acting directly or indirectly in its own commercial interest. Thus, the Authority’s interpretation did not stand.
The Consumer Protection Authority lodged an appeal against the ruling with the Supreme Court. The court rejected the appeal.