Geoffrey Frederick Woodroffe
Well known, highly respected academic consumer lawyer, lecturer and author
Geoffrey Frederick Woodroffe, academic consumer lawyer. Born: 21 December 1934. Died: 5 July 2018, aged 83
Geoffrey Woodroffe was one of the best known and most highly respected academic consumer lawyers in the United Kingdom.
From Bec Grammar School, London, he went to St John’s College, Cambridge, where he read classics and law. He then qualified as a solicitor and joined the College of Law where he was founding Principal of its College in Chester.
He joined Brunel University in 1976 and taught there until 2005, founding in 1982 the Centre for Consumer and Commercial Law Research, of which he became Director and Professor of Consumer Law. He was revered by colleagues and students.
Woodroffe made very significant contributions to the development of consumer law at both national and EU levels. At the national level he played a key role in the passage of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. As unpaid consultant to the National Consumer Council and the Consumers’ Association he drafted the Private Member’s Bill that formed the basis of Part II of the Act, dealing with contracts for services.
It is a tribute to his work that these provisions have been carried forward almost unchanged into the Consumer Rights Act 2015, Chapter 4. He also did substantial pieces of work for what was then the DTI’S Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate.
These included a comparative study of the laws of nine overseas jurisdictions, which underlay the DTI’S Comparative Report on Consumer Policy Regimes (2003); and helping with its Consumer Codes and Approvals Scheme (2008).
At what was then the European Communities level, he was one of a team of four experts appointed to draft what became the Directive of General Product Safety (2001/95/EC).
In addition, he was consulted by several other governments, including those of Brazil and France. His reputation was truly international.
Woodroffe was not only involved in law reform. He was appointed as a member of the National Consumer Council in 1995, and was reappointed in 1998-2001. From 1994 until 2002 he acted as the Funeral Ombudsman; and he served as the representative of consumers on the committees of the Finance and Leasing Association. He was particularly concerned with oversight of the FLA’S Lending Code.
Professor Hugh Beale adds: I knew Woodroffe through meeting at academic conferences for many years, but came to appreciate him most when I was asked by the British Council to set up a small group of English lawyers to advise the Hungarian Ministry of Justice on reform of the Hungarian Civil Code and consumer legislation (Policy Issues in Legal Development, under the auspices of the British-hungarian Joint Academic Research Programme, 19992002). The project took the form of a series of meetings with senior Hungarian academics who were part of the committee established to propose reforms; they included Professor Ferenc Madl (then Professor at Eötvös Loránd School of Law in Budapest; formerly a minister under the first democratic government and later President of the Republic of Hungary); Professor Lajos Vékás (also of Eötvös Loránd School of Law and Chair of the Civil Code reform committee) and Professor Attila Harmathy (a distinguished Civil Lawyer, previously Dean of Eötvös Loránd School of Law and formerly Vice-president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; in 1999 a judge of the Constitutional Court).
The task of the English team was to explain how various issues were dealt with in English law and what lessons the Hungarians might learn from the English experience as they made proposals to reform their law to meet the demands of a growing, but not yet fully developed, market economy.
Woodroffe was an obvious choice for the English team and he proved to be invaluable. Their Hungarian colleagues appreciated his wisdom, and also the clarity and openness of his presentations, very much.
Woodroffe was particularly skillful at giving clear guidance on what might or might not work without in any way dictating what should or should not be done -‐ something to which the Hungarians would not have taken kindly!
Overall, Woodroffe made an exceptional contribution to the development of consumer law in the UK, across the EU and in various countries inside and outside the EU; he was a highly respected author with an international reputation; and through his various activities he contributed directly to the improvement of the consumer experience.
His book, Woodroffe and Lowe on Consumer Law and Practice (now in its 10th edition, 2016; Woodroffe was for long the principal author) is highly regarded and is the first source to which I turn for information about consumer law issues. He published many influential articles and book chapters.
He was an excellent lecturer and teacher, using anecdotes which his students remembered years later as illustrating the relevant point of law – a technique he also used in his writing.
In 2000 Geoffrey was a speaker at a Conference in Lisbon where he met Rosemary Colquhoun, a Scottish Solicitor who was one of the delegates. They married later that year and lived for more than seventeen years very happily in Edinburgh, with homes too in Farnham in Surrey and Montpellier in the south of France, Geoffrey doing his best to adjust to the Scottish weather, learning to enjoy Scottish country dancing and welcomed by a wide circle of friends.
In addition to Rosemary, he is survived by three children from a previous marriage, two sons, Jonathan and Guy and a daughter, Sarah,and by six grandchildren. CONTRIBUTED The Scotsman welcomes obituaries and appreciations from contributors as well as suggestions of possible obituary subjects.
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“He was an excellent lecturer and teacher, using anecdotes which his students remembered years later”