On 24 January 2024, the Department for Business and Trade announced that fake reviews and unavoidable hidden or “dripped” charges will be added to the list of banned practices under consumer law in the UK.  The amendments are intended “to ensure customers can compare purchases with ease, aren’t duped by fake reviews, and have the sting of hidden fees taken away.”[1]

The changes, which follow a government consultation into price transparency and product information for consumers, will be incorporated into the Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill (Bill), which is currently progressing through Parliament.  Amongst other reforms, the Bill will overhaul the UK consumer protection law regime, including replacing the existing Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs), which contain a list of banned commercial practices that are always considered unfair to consumers. 

This blog summarises the issues tackled by the proposed amendments.

Fake reviews

Fake reviews will be added to the list of commercial practices that are considered unfair in all circumstances in Schedule 19 of the Bill, “with website hosts held accountable for reviews on their pages.”[2]   

The government has said it will work together with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the coming months to publish guidance explaining the law.  The guidance will set out the “reasonable and proportionate” steps traders will be expected to take to (i) remove and prevent fake reviews; and (ii) prevent any other information presented on their platforms that is determined or influenced by reviews from being false or misleading to consumers.  The CMA is expected to consult on these guidelines.

Hidden fees and drip pricing

The government also plans to ban hidden fees that are unavoidable for consumers.  This so-called “drip pricing” occurs when consumers are shown an initial price for a product or service with additional fees revealed (or “dripped”) later in the checkout process.  The government considered that this phenomenon is widespread, costing UK consumers £2.2 billion annually.

According to the government, dripped fees undermine price transparency, make it difficult for consumers to make informed purchasing decisions based on prices, and limit price competition because traders compete on misleading headline prices.[3]  As a result:

  • Mandatory fees will have to be included in the headline price displayed to consumers at the start of a shopping process (e.g., additional booking fees).  The existence of any variable mandatory fees and how they are calculated will also have to be disclosed.
  • Optional fees will not be included in the proposed reforms (e.g., additional fees for specific airline seats or luggage upgrades for flights), although the government “will give further consideration” to this practice.[4]


Currently, the CMA has to establish that traders are acting contrary to the requirements of professional diligence or are engaging in misleading actions or omissions or aggressive practices.  This represents a higher bar to enforcement as a breach can only be established if the average consumer would have taken a different purchasing decision as a result of the practice.   As banned practices under the new regime, this will no longer be necessary. 

On 20 November 2023, the Bill completed the Report stage and passed its third reading in the House of Commons. The Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on 5 December 2023 and has now reached the Committee stage.[5]  The Bill is currently expected to receive Royal Assent by April 2024 and come into force in Q3/4 2024.

[1]             Statement of the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake (see Press release, New laws set to ban mandatory hidden fees from online shopping, saving money for consumers, 24 January 2024).

[2]             Ibid.

[3]             See Government response to consultation on ‘Smarter Regulation: Improving consumer price transparency and product information for consumers’.

[4]             Ibid.

[5]             See Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill.