Most of us are at least vaguely familiar of our rights as a consumer, particularly when it comes to returning faulty or unwanted goods. As online shopping increased massively in popularity over the past few years, consumer rights have perhaps become even more important – we’ve all seen those comparison photos on social media of the online photos used to sell clothing and the actual item received by the buyer, for example.
Back in 2014, we published an article about distance selling regulations which had been made when the Consumer Contract Regulations came into force and now these regulations have been updated once more.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 has been designed to make consumer rights easier to understand and, given the digital nature of many transactions nowadays, does include online shopping and digital content as well as purchases made in traditional bricks and mortar retail outlets.
Since the Act came into force in October 2015, your rights as a consumer are as outlined in the remainder of this article.
What rights do I have?
Consumers, whether they have purchased a physical or digital item or service, are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair where a digital or physical purchase does not meet any of the following standards:
- Fit for purpose – The item purchased must be suitable for the purpose for which it was sold. Any statement made by the seller at the point of sale, in text accompanying an item for sale online or as an answer to a question posed by the buyer in relation to the purpose of the item, may form the basis for a claim if found to be untrue. Aside from the more obvious issues with physical items, consumers can claim where an audio track or video file does not play properly, a game fails to load, or software infects their computer with a virus, to name but a few
- Satisfactory quality – Goods purchased in person or online must not be damaged or broken when received by the consumer
- As described – Regardless of the method of purchase, items must be as described by the seller. This relates to situations like that mentioned above, where goods purchased online differ wildly when received in person.
In all instances, sellers have an obligation to act with reasonable skill or care and as agreed with the consumer. Where this obligation is not fulfilled, the consumer has a right to make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Retailers and consumers should bear in mind that these are applicable to services as well as goods, so consumers are entitled to claim for a refund, repair or replacement when home improvements, for example, are not completed to the expected standard or where a haircut is different to what was requested.
In some cases, repairs and replacements are not possible, meaning full or partial refunds should be offered.
What time limit applies to my right to claim?
One of the consumer-friendly changes implemented with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is the clarification of the applicable time scales.
- Refunds can be requested within 30 days of purchase, where the seller involved was based within the UK. Repairs or replacements can be requested as alternatives if preferred.
- Repairs or replacements for faulty goods or services can be requested within six months. Providers do have one chance to supply a satisfactory repair, after which the consumer is entitled to a refund. However, the consumer can request a second attempt at repair if they so wish.
- Sellers may offer refunds or replacements after the time scales mentioned above have passed, however, they are entitled to make reasonable deductions to allow for the period of us. In such instances, the consumer must be able to prove the fault existed at time of purchase.
- If any of the following are true, the consumer is entitled to receive a full or partial refund instead of a repair or replacement:
- The cost of repairing or replacing the item is disproportionate to the value of the item
- It is not possible to repair or replace an item
- Significant inconvenience would be caused by a repair or replacement
- The repair or replacement would take an unreasonably long time
- A repair has previously been unsuccessful
The time scales above apply to non-perishable goods – perishable items should be expected to last until their use-by date once stored correctly.
Can I claim for a late delivery?
Unless a longer period has been agreed between the consumer and the retailer, a default maximum of 30 days’ delivery time applies to all purchases.
Where a delivery is not completed within this time, and timely delivery was critical, the consumer is entitled to cancel the order and receive a full refund.
Where the delivery was not time critical, but a satisfactory alternative delivery date cannot be agreed, the consumer is also entitled to cancel the order and receive a full refund.
Who is responsible for the cost of returns?
Should you need to return an item for reasons covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the seller is responsible for covering any reasonable costs involved in making the return. This does not include any costs which are incurred by the consumer when travelling to a shop to return faulty goods, but does include postage.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and services
For the purposes of the legislation, a service may be a small repair job or a large-scale project. It may involve goods, such as in the case of a kitchen or bathroom installation, or it may not involve any new goods, as where clothing is to be dry-cleaned for example.
Under the new legislation, the provider is obliged to:
- Perform the service with reasonable care and skill
- Be bound by information provided to the consumer, whether spoken or written
- If a price has not been agreed in advance, the service must be provided for a reasonable price
- Carry out the service within a reasonable timescale
If a service does not meet these conditions, the consumer is entitled to:
- Have the work redone to a satisfactory standard, at no additional cost to the consumer. Again, this must be done within a reasonable timescale and with minimal inconvenience to the consumer.
- Where this cannot be done, the consumer is entitled to a partial refund, or a full refund where the circumstances are significant
Other important points about the Consumer Rights Act 2015
The legislation does not just cover consumer rights with regards to refunds, replacements and repairs, it also provides protection against unfair charges and hidden terms and conditions. Under the current Act, all key terms of a transaction must be “prominent and transparent”; that is, not hidden in the small print.
Services must also comply with any pre-contract information which may have been presented to the consumer by the provider.
Other points which may lead to the contract being deemed unfair under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 include:
- Terms which appear to be contrary to the concept of good faith
- Terms which cause an imbalance in the rights of the consumer when compared to the rights of the provider, to the detriment of the consumer
- Disproportionate early termination charges
- Terms which appear to limit the consumer’s legal rights
Should the consumer feel that a contract is unfair, the trader should be approached in the first instance. It is recommended that legal advice is obtained before the consumer breaches any terms of the contract themselves.
Who can help with unresolved claims?
Consumers should always approach the seller in the first place to give them a chance to put the issue right, however, there will be cases where this is not possible or the seller is not forthcoming.
Should you find you are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution, the Alternative Dispute Resolution service may be able to assist.