The new Consumer Rights Act came in to force on October 1st 2015, and for the first time shoppers who buy faulty goods will be entitled to a full refund for up to 30 days after the purchase – something that will particularly help new car buyers. It replaces three big pieces of consumer legislation – the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. So, in reality, what does it all mean?
Returns and refunds If an item breaks within 30 days, the buyer can demand a no-quibble refund – until now this was not available. If your purchase breaks after 30 days, you have to give the retailer one chance to fix it. If that fails, you can ask for a full refund – with one exception, cars, where a reasonable reduction may be made for the use you’ve had of the vehicle.
If the item breaks down after six months – in reality a year, because of the guarantee – the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time of delivery.
This may require some form of expert report or evidence of similar problems across the product range. A “tiered” remedy system is now in place meaning your rights to a refund are more clearly set out. Whether you’re entitled to a refund – and its size – will depend on how long you’ve owned the product.
Failed repairs After one failed attempt by the retailer to repair or replace a faulty item, you are entitled to a refund or price reduction. If you don’t want either, you can request another repair or replacement at “no cost to you”.
Digital content rights The new legislation sets out – for the first time – your rights when you purchase digital content. As with all products, it must be as described, even if the software is supplied free of charge, as might reasonably happen with a laptop. If the digital content fails, or is not as described, the new rights will be enforceable against the retailer – such as Google, Apple, or the software provider – rather than the developer. The retailer will have to compensate you if any device, or other digital content, is damaged as a result of the digital download. It would also be liable to pay compensation for removing a virus.
Delivery rights The retailer is responsible for goods until they are in your physical possession. This means that they can no longer blame a courier if something is damaged. The retailer is liable for the service provided by the couriers it employs.
Late deliveries Unless an extended date was agreed at the time of purchase, retailers have to deliver goods within 30 days. If it doesn’t, shoppers have the right to get a full refund.
Dispute resolution When disputes occur, consumers will be able to take their complaints to certified alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers.
Unfair contract terms It will be easier for consumers to challenge hidden fees and charges. The key terms of a contract, including price, may be assessed for fairness unless they’re both prominent and transparent. Disproportionately high default or excessive early termination charges are included.
This week consumer group Which? urged retailers to avoid short-changing customers by educating all staff on the new rules. Expect some battles in store as staff, unaware of the new rules, deny customers their new rights.
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