The Bill, if it becomes law, means that traders will no longer be able to assert that ownership has not passed to a consumer in circumstances where only a deposit has been paid (and payment in full has not been received). The Law Commission believes that this will help to protect consumers (particularly those who have paid substantial deposits prior to a trader's insolvency) as the ownership of the goods may already have passed to the consumer.
No change is proposed to the principle that goods will remain at the trader's risk until they come into the consumer's physical possession.
The Law Commission's consultation on the Bill closed on 31 October 2020 and the responses are being analysed.
There is talk of an increased urgency to see this progress further quickly though as online shopping has sky-rocketed because of the pandemic (we nearly managed a whole article without mentioning Covid) and the risk of trader insolvencies has increased in recent times.
We expect, as is the case after most consultations, that the draft Bill may be amended before it is presented to Parliament. However, it seems pretty likely that some variation of the core proposal that title to goods ordered online will pass earlier than they currently do will make it through to law given the above context.
We think it is reasonably unlikely that well worn and well run order picking/fulfilment and dispatch processes will be changed wholesale because of any change in the law – those operations work how they do for good reasons, but there may be some circumstances (particularly where third party suppliers insist on Retention of Title clauses in their supply agreements or if there's any possible issue with solvency), where it could in future be desirable for a retailer to designate goods in stock for particular customers later in their processes than may currently be the case and, in any event, retailers should be aware of this likely change in consumer's rights.