Consumer Law and the Consumer Rights Act
Understanding Consumer Law and the Consumer Rights Act
As a consumer you have several rights to ensure that you are protected should things go wrong that are not your fault. This includes the purchase of both goods or services which must Beas described and fit for purpose. In this guide, we will explore the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and explore what you can do if you find things not as expected and the supplier will not help or provide a satisfactory resolution.
What is Consumer Law and the Consumer Rights Act 2015?
Consumers have had rights for a long time, but in 2015 a new piece of legislation came into force that replaced three previous acts, making one overarching legislation which anyone who sells goods or services can be held to account with if they fail offer resolution or create a breach of contract. The three old legislations were known as the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. It was felt that these individual items did not offer enough in the way of clarity and ease of use, and a better act to provide full consumer protection was needed. The act covers:
- Your expectations of the quality of the product or service
- How you can claim
- The time scales you must adhere to
- Should they repair or replace your item
- The initial six month period and its importance
- What happens after six months
- Your rights surrounding delivery
- How digital content is handled
- The provision of services
- What to do if a contract has unfair terms
Your Expectations of the Quality of the Product or Service
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is very clear on what a customer can expect when they buy goods. These conditions specifically relate to products, and this encompasses both physical and digital products.
Fit for Purpose
All goods must be fit for the purpose for which they are supplied. If you have specifically asked a retailer whether an item is suitable for a specific purpose, then this is also covered, so if you received false information, you still have rights here.
When you purchase or receive an item, it should be as new with no damage or faults, assuming you bought them as such. If you purchased something labelled as a second, or from a reduced bin, for example, any defects or faults should be made clear, but you are accepting these when you purchase. The key is what condition is reasonable for the product; you cannot buy a puzzle clearly marked as having pieces missing then complain about it.
Which brings us neatly to the final point that all good must be as described, meaning that any description should be accurate and match the item, this includes samples or models demonstrated at the sale. If you receive a different item or one of inferior standards then clearly you will have rights.
How You Can Claim
In the first instance, you should start with the retailer, the person that sold you the item. In lots of cases, the mistake is entirely innocent, and they will be more than happy to offer a full refund or offer you the choice of a replacement or repair. In which case, no further action is needed. However we know that the world can be far from ideal, so should you draw a blank or end up in dispute then you can take further action.
Still dealing with the retailer you then need to make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Under the supply of goods even if the product is faulty but sold by a third party, your claim is always with them and not the manufacturer.
The Timescales You Must Adhere to
Initially, you have 30 days to establish a problem. During this time the Consumer Rights Act states that you may: ‘reject goods that are unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described’ and be entitled to a full refund. From the date of ownership, the day you purchase the item you have 30 days to make a claim and received all of your money back. After this period you no longer have a legal entitlement to all your money back. However, sometimes sellers do offer extended periods for a refund. This does not apply to digital products such as downloads of music, apps and games. In the case of a digital product you should, however, be able to as for a repair or replacement, and if this is not possible, then you should receive a partial refund. It should also be noted that you do not have 30 days on perishable items such as food, these items are deterred by the use by date, assuming that the item has been correctly stored.
Should they repair or replace your item
While digital items must offer a repair or replacement what about physical objects? As stated within 30 days you are legally entitled to a full refund, however, after that period you can reasonably ask for the item to be repaired or replaced. It is not up to you to decide which, the retailer is allowed to make that decision, and will generally, and naturally opt for the cheaper or easier solution. If the items cannot be repaired or replaced you may then claim for a price reduction if you choose to keep the item. The legislation then states then you should receive a full or partial refund in the following cases:
- The replacement or repair is not possible
- The replacement or repair is of significant inconvenience
- The replacement or repair costs are disproportionate to the value of the item
- The repair would take an unreasonable length of time
If the repair or replacement is not possible or does not work, or the replacement is faulty, you now have the right to a refund by rejecting the goods once more. If you are adamant you want the item repaired or replaced again, then you have the right to ask for this too.
The Initial Six Month Period and its importance
If you discover a fault with the item during the first six months of use it will be assumed the fault was there from the start; it is up to the retailer to prove that is not the case. You do not have to prove anything. In the case of an attempted repair, or a replacement that failed, you can reject the goods and be entitled to a refund, or choose to keep the item for a price reduction. The retailer has to offer a full refund during the first six months after an attempted repair or replacement. This does not apply to motor vehicles; however, here a retailer can take a reasonable reduction to compensate for your first 30 days of use.
What Happens After Six Months
If you have owned a product for over six months and then it develops a fault, the tables are turned, and you must prove that it was faulty from day one. This might mean getting an expert involved to provide a report or opinion. You may be able to find evidence that a whole range was faulty for example. If you fail to make progress you can make a small claims court case provided it is within six years of purchase in England, Northern Island and Wales, or five years if you live in Scotland. An item does not have to last six years; this is just the timescale for the small claims court.
Your Rights Surrounding Delivery
You are not classed as owning the item until it is actually in your hands so to speak. So, if a delivery is involved the retailer is responsible for the goods in transit. Therefore you have no responsibility or liability if the item is broken in transit. Until it is received by yourself or your appointed person the liability remains with the retailer. In the event of late delivery, you also have some rights. The standard delivery period is 30 days, but if the retails agrees on a different date with you, this will apply. If they fail to make delivery on the agreed day or within 30 days, you can terminate the order and expect a full refund. This applies whether the delivery date was essential or not.
How Digital Content is Handled
Digital content has become big business and previously was not a thing so couldn’t be covered by legislation, However, now the law surrounding digital content has been cleared up, and all digital content in the form of downloads of apps, music, games, etc. must meet the same criteria as defined above. The primary difference is there is no right to refund but if the item is not seen to meet the conditions then you can ask for replacement or repair, and this is a right, not a request. If this is not possible or the remedial action does not fix the problem, then you can ask for a price reduction, and this can be up to 100% of the price paid. In the case of any damage occurring to your device as a direct result of the download then you are also entitled to compensation provided that ‘reasonable care and skill’ was exercised. This means that if you are not skilled enough and this can be proven it is not the fault of the retailer.
The Provision of Services
A service has two categories, those that include the provision of goods, for example, fixing your car with parts, having double glazing installed or having a new bathroom fitted. Services without products supplied include things like hair cuts, dry cleaning, entertainment and the work of professionals such as estate agents and solicitors.
In either case, the service provision falls under the consumer rights act as a service (and the goods are covered as above as physical goods). In terms of providing the service the following conditions apply:
- Reasonable care and attention must be taken at all times by the service provider
- Any information, verbal or written, that the consumer relies upon is binding
- If a price is not agreed in advance, the service provision must be at a reasonable cost
- If a timescale has not been decided in advance, the service must be carried out in a reasonable time
If this does not happen, your rights as a consumer are as follows:
The trader must rectify any element that was not right or repeat the whole service at no extra cost and without causing an inconvenience that can be considered significant.
If that is not possible, then a price reduction can be claimed, up to 100% of the cost, and once agreed the refund should be provided within 14 days. If the trader does not comply then you will have to take further advice as shown below in alternative dispute resolution.
What to do if a Contract has Unfair Terms
When you enter into a contract, you have rights under the consumer rights act 2015 if you think that the term and conditions are not right. We call this unfair contract term, and this includes things like ‘hiding charges and fees in the small print, an attempt to limit your legal rights, disproportionate default charges and excessive early termination changes’. Again this should be taken up with the trader as a first action, but if they do not agree, then you should take legal advice, preferably before you break the contract or you could inadvertently put yourself at risk. In some cases, you could take the trader to court, and if found in your favour you will be given the right to into the term or cancel a contract and not incur any suggested cancellation fees.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
If you are struggling, you can get further advice from trading standards, citizens advice or for financial services the ombudsman for the industry. All of these bodies are able to help when it comes to redress for consumers and will offer assistance with your grievance.
Learn about your rights under consumer law and what you can do if a product or service is not as described or fit for purpose under the consumer rights act 2015.