What is the Consumer Rights Act 2015?
In the UK consumers spend billions of pounds every year on goods and services. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 governs the rights of consumers, and as such the responsibilities of retailers and businesses selling goods or providing services directly to them.
The Act is designed not only to help businesses sell with confidence, but to help consumers understand the law more clearly and take effective action where poor quality or service has been received.
By consolidating and updating previous legislation – including the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act – the Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides much greater protection for you, the shopper.
What protection do I have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015?
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 a clearly defined set of rules apply to every transaction for the sale and supply of goods. This includes contracts for hire, hire purchase, part exchange and contracts for work and materials.
The 2015 Act provides the consumer with a wide range of statutory rights when buying goods or paying for services. These include:
- the right to clear and honest information before you buy
- the right to get what you have paid for
- the right to goods being fit for purpose
- the right to services being performed with reasonable care and skill
- the right that any faults, in either good s and services, will be put right free of charge, or a refund or replacement provided.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also introduced an important new area of law to reflect how our shopping habits have evolved. For the first time consumers have the right to the repair or replacement of faulty digital content, including online films and games, music downloads and e-books.
My goods are faulty or not of satisfactory quality. What should I do?
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 all goods must be “of satisfactory quality”, “fit for particular purpose” and “as described”. Unless otherwise brought to the attention of the consumer, this expressly includes a requirement that goods match any sample or display model.
If within 30 days from the date of purchase, or when you take possession if later, those goods fail to satisfy any one of these criteria you have a statutory entitlement to reject the goods and receive a full refund from the retailer.
If, however, your item develops a fault after 30 days you will no longer be automatically entitled your money back, although some retailers may offer you an extended refund period.
It is always prudent to check your receipt, agreement or any guarantee for terms and conditions that may extend your statutory rights. Conversely, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, such rights cannot be restricted or excluded.
I purchased my goods over 30 days ago. Can I still complain?
In circumstances where faulty goods were purchased more than 30 days ago, and it was reasonable to expect the goods to last longer, you may still request a repair or replacement.
The retailer must provide a repair or replacement within a reasonable time of your request, and without significant inconvenience or extra cost to you. Much may depend here, however, on the nature of the goods and the purpose for which they were bought.
Having given the retailer a reasonable opportunity to repair or replace the goods without success, you may then reject the goods and seek a refund. If, on the other hand, you wish to keep the goods, you may seek a price reduction.
Equally, in the event that either a repair or replacement is no longer possible, any repair fails or a replacement also fails to conform, you may then seek a partial or full refund.
You cannot, however, insist on a repair or replacement if any one such remedy has become impossible or disproportionate compared to the other of those remedies. If, for example, the goods have been discontinued you would only be entitled to a repair in these circumstances.
I’m unhappy with the service provided. Can I ask for the work to be repeated?
From beauty treatments to building works, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 all services must be performed “with reasonable care and skill”. Further, where an agreement does not specify a price or timescale, the service must be performed “within a reasonable time” at “a reasonable price”.
If a service is not provided to a satisfactory standard, or as agreed, the service provider will be required to remedy the problem within a reasonable time, and without significant inconvenience or extra cost to you. Much may depend here, of course, on the nature and purpose of the service.
In circumstances where repeat performance is impossible, or the service provider has failed to remedy the problem within a reasonable timeframe or without significant inconvenience to you, you can then seek a price reduction. Depending on the circumstances, a price reduction can represent the full amount paid.
My digital product doesn’t download. Have I got a remedy here?
In most cases, buying goods online is covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does, however, provide protection for the purchase of digital content.
Under the 2015 Act all goods, both physical and digital, must be “of satisfactory quality”, “fit for particular purpose” and “as described”.
In the event that the digital content fails to satisfy any one of these criteria you have a statutory right to a repair or replacement. This must be done within a reasonable time, and without significant inconvenience or extra cost to you. Again, much may depend here on the nature of the digital content and the purpose for which that content was obtained.
Having given the retailer a reasonable opportunity to repair or replace the digital content without success, you may then seek a price reduction of up to 100% of the price paid. Equally, in the event that either a repair or replacement is no longer possible, or any repair fails or a replacement also fails to conform, you may then seek a partial or full refund.
The retailer will also have to compensate you if any device or other digital content that you own is damaged as a result of the faulty product.
What do I do if my complaint is not taken seriously?
There are several ways of resolving any dispute, both formally and informally, depending on the circumstances and the desired outcome. Needless to say, it is always best to approach the retailer or business first to see if your complaint can be resolved in a quick and cost-effective manner.
The use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) such as mediation or arbitration may also be available. This refers to ways of resolving disputes between consumers and businesses that don’t involve going to court. In the UK there are several established ADR schemes in regulated sectors such as the financial services, telecoms and energy. Outside of these sectors, many businesses are members of voluntary ADR schemes.
If, however, a satisfactory resolution cannot be achieved, you may have grounds to pursue a claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Whilst litigation can prove timely and expensive, it remains open to you to pursue a remedy through the small claims court. Indeed, in some circumstances litigation could prove to be the only viable option where a dispute cannot otherwise be resolved.
When should I seek legal advice?
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sits within a framework of other consumer legislation and, taken together, this body of consumer law may appear complex and confusing.
Other rules affecting consumer contracts include the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations and Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations. These provide private rights for consumers who have suffered harm as a result of misleading or aggressive practice. Further, the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations set out rules in relation to distance, online and off-premises selling.
Whilst the Consumer Rights 2015 Act was designed to make it easier for consumers to better hold retailers and businesses to account for poor quality and service, there will be many instances where professional legal advice should still be sought. An important example would be where you have suffered an injury as a result of a defective product. In these circumstances you may have a claim under the Consumer Protection Act against the retailer, manufacturer and others in the supply chain.
A solicitor specialising in consumer law will be able to advise you on your rights and possible remedies, providing you with a legal assessment of your particular case and what practical steps you can take next.