As a consumer, you can be forgiven for assuming that the goods or services you are acquiring are fit for purpose. If you have purchased goods or services that have fallen short of your expectations, it is important to understand what protection will be offered to you and how the situation can be rectified.
The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1st October 2015 with a view to offering clarity on the relationship between businesses and consumers. Here are some key points to be aware of.
1. Quality of products
Businesses must ensure that all the products they sell are fit for the purpose the consumer purchased them for. In other words, they must be of satisfactory quality as well as matching the description provided to the consumer by the business. For example, if you purchase a brand-new car you would reasonably expect to be able to drive the car for a considerable period without the engine failing.
2. Return of Goods
If a consumer purchases a product form a business and later decides that the product has not met their expectations, the consumer will have a 30-day period within which they can reject the product. A consumer can reject a product on these grounds if the product is unfit for purpose, not of satisfactory quality or not as described.
3. Replacement of Goods / Repair
If a consumer finds itself outside of the 30-day returns period described in point 2, they have a right to a replacement or repair of goods instead. The business will typically decide which remedy it would like to pursue. You would normally be offered a refund if it transpired that a replacement of goods/repair would be disproportionate to the price of the goods or if the repair/replacement would put you in a detrimental positon.
Whether you’re catching a train, taking in your dry cleaning done or getting a haircut it’s fair to say that you would hope that a reasonable amount of care and skill is taken in ensuring you have a good experience of the service. Consumers are offered protection to this regard under the Act and as such all contracts for services must be carried out diligently, within a reasonable time frame and for a proportionate price.
5. Digital Content
Due to recent developments within consumer law, the new Act now offers protection for purchases made by a consumer digitally. An example of this would be online music downloads and e books. In a similar vein to the protection offered for purchased goods; businesses must now ensure that digital content is of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
6. Unfair terms
Businesses need to be acutely aware of the use of hidden charges and terms in relation to the goods/services they provide. If a term or condition of a contract is deemed to be unfair, a business may not be able to rely on it could result in a consumer having a right to cancel the contract or ignore the contract term. An example of this would be small print on a retail receipt stating that they do not offer repairs, replacements or refunds. If the small print is deemed to unfairly limit a consumer’s rights, the likelihood is that it will be classed as unfair under the terms of the act.
7. Notices to consumers
Consumers are also protected against rogue notices which seek to limit their rights. An example of this would be a barely visible car park sign that states that a car will be clamped if it is not removed from by a defined time. Subsequently a business will not be able to rely on a non-contractual notice such as this if it is seen to be unfair.
8. Delayed Deliveries
A retail business must deliver goods purchased by a consumer within 30 days unless otherwise agreed by both parties. If a consumer required the goods within a specific period and the goods are delivered late, the consumer will be able to cancel their order and obtain a full refund. The consumer will also be entitled to a refund if he can’t arrange an alternative delivery time following the initial breach.
9. Remedies/ enforcement
The main remedy if goods are deemed unfit for purpose/unsatisfactory (outside of the 30-day period) will be a repair or replacement. In either case a consumer can be safe in the knowledge that they will be offered the remedy that stands to benefit them the most. Of course, if a consumer is still within their 30-day period they will be entitled to return/reject the goods and get a full refund. If a service is proven to be unsatisfactory, a consumer can request for a service to be performed again at no extra cost. If a reperformance is impossible, you can request for a refund of up to 100% payable within 14 days. In relation to digital content a consumer would be entitled to a repair/replacement. Failing this a consumer could seek a price reduction of up to 100%
10. Conclusion – what does this mean for businesses & consumers
The Consumer Rights act 2015 has provided businesses and consumers alike with a clear structure of the level of expectation a consumer will have when purchasing goods, services and digital content. It also provides consumers with a series of defined remedies in the event of a breach. Furthermore, the act highlights the obligations a business has when supplying goods, services and digital content. Consequently, businesses should take reasonable steps to review their existing terms and conditions to ensure that they do not fall foul of the revised law.