It’s a fact of life that things you buy may not always be as expected – whether the item is faulty, or damaged, or simply doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. In these cases, you should be able to rely on protections under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

In this guide for consumers, we summarise the key points of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and answer frequently asked questions on how to enforce your rights against retailers.

What is the Consumer Rights Act 2015?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 governs the rights of consumers and 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 goods or services have 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 is intended to provide much greater protection for buyers.

What protections 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 goods and services, will be put right free of charge, or a refund or replacement provided
  • the right to the repair or replacement of faulty digital content, including online films and games, music downloads and e-books

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, these rights cannot be restricted or excluded.

Importantly, your rights are against the retailer or party that sold you the goods or service, and not against the manufacturer.

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 a 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 to your money back, although some retailers may offer you an extended refund period.

If you’ve owned the item for between 30 days and six months, you are required by law to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace the product before a refund can be claimed.

If you’ve had the item for longer than six months, you are again required by law to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace the product before a partial refund can be claimed.

Because your rights will depend on when the item was bought, it’s advisable to keep receipts and any guarantee or purchase documentation. You should also check these for terms and conditions that may extend your statutory rights.

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 request 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 request a price reduction. Depending on the circumstances, a price reduction could represent the full amount paid.

My digital product hasn’t downloaded – what can I do?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does 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.

I’m having issues with delivery of my order – what can I do?

The retailer remains responsible for all goods you have bought from them until you have physically received them, or they have been received by someone nominated by you, or they have been delivered to a safe place designated by you.

Unless a longer delivery period has been agreed, the retailer has to ensure delivery within 30 days. If the items is not delivered within 30 days or by the agreed date, you either:

  • have the right to cancel the transaction and receive a full refund, if it was crucial that the item be delivered on time, or
  • if delivery was not time-sensitive but another reasonable delivery time cannot be agreed, you can cancel the order and receive a full refund.

If your goods are undelivered and you wish to file a complaint, you should contact the retailer, even if you believe the problem is due to the courier’s poor service.

If your item has been stolen, your rights will depend on whether you authorised the retailer or courier to leave your package in the location where it was taken from.

What can I do if my complaint is not taken seriously?

There are several ways of resolving consumer disputes, both formally and informally, depending on the circumstances and the desired outcome. In the first instance, you should first approach the retailer or business that sold you the item 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 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 sue the company through a 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 which together can quickly become complex and confusing.

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 when 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.

Consumer Rights Act 2015 FAQs

What are the main points of the Consumer Rights Act 2015?

The Consumer Rights Act provides certain protections to people buying goods, services and digital products in the event of fault, damage or unsatisfactory quality.

Can shops refuse to give you a refund?

Retailers are required to refund where an item is either faulty, or not as described or does not do what it is supposed to.

What is Section 62 Consumer Rights Act?

Section 62 states that unfair contract terms will not be considered binding on the consumer, although the consumer may rely on the unfair term should they so choose.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute tax, financial or legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the rules and should not be treated as such.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.

Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert tax, financial, legal or other advice should be sought.

As Editor of Lawble, Gill helps business and individuals become better informed about their legal rights. Gill is a content specialist in the fields of law, tax and human resources.