If you have purchased an item that is not as described, of satisfactory quality or fit for the purpose, you have the right to complain to the retailer and you may have a claim under the Consumer Rights Act.
When you purchase goods or services, you as the consumer agree to the terms of service and conditions of the business you are buying from. In return, the business or service provider in return has a duty to ensure their goods and services comply with relevant laws and Trading Standard regulations. If they fail to meet these standards, understanding how to complain can help you to enforce your consumer rights.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force in 2015, replacing the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 to make the law on consumer rights clearer and introducing new rights in relation to digital purchases.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to goods and services purchased on or after 1st October 2015.
If your purchase was made on or before the 30thSeptember 2015, you would need to check your legal position under the relevant previous legislation. Goods for example would be dealt with under the Sale of Goods Act 1979.
Buying goods: What are my rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015?
In summary, goods bought either in a shop or online must adhere to the following:
- Satisfactory quality: The item should not be damaged or faulty when you receive it.
- Fit for purpose: The item should be suitable for intended purpose.
- As described: The product should match the description provided to you – for example this could be related to size, composition or technical specification.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, purchased digital content i.e. online films, games, music downloads and ebooks, are subject to the same standards concerning characteristics, compatibility and functionality as ‘tangible’ products.
Before your complain
The Consumer Rights Act provides a number of options for remedy where your statutory rights have been broken.
If you believe the item you have purchased, either in store, over the telephone or online, has not met these standards, you may have grounds to complain.
You will first need to decide what you want the retailer to do. Do you want the item repaired or fixed? Do you want a refund, or compensation?
The timing may also determine your course of action, since there are clear time limits you must adhere to for refunds and replacements.
- Refund: If you purchased a product from a UK seller you have up to 30 days to ask for a refund – or a repair or replacement if that is your preference.
- Repair or replacement: You can request for a product to be repaired or replaced up to six months after your purchase. If you are still unhappy with the product after the first repair you have the right to ask for a refund.
You may still have the right to request a repair or partial refund after six months under the Limitation Act but you will need to prove the product was faulty when you purchased it and the seller may have the right to deduct money for the use you’ve already had.
Financial damages for expenses incurred may be available to you whether you make the complaint before of after the six-month date.
How to complain
If you contact the retailer directly with a clear explanation of the problem, usually they will work to resolve the issue quickly. Get in touch with their customer services team or go back in store and speak with a senior member of staff to see if they can resolve your complaint.
It can be helpful to keep notes in case you need to refer to or rely on these at a later point. For example; conversations you had prior to purchase that could be seen as a verbal contract or a term of the sale; receipts, delivery notes and terms and conditions; name/s of the person or people you spoke to; dates and times of communications
If speaking to the retails doesn’t resolve the issue, the next step would be to write a formal letter of complaint to the company. As no two complaints are the same many people choose to seek legal advice to help them understand how to complain and ensure their letter contains everything it needs to – statutory and other rights affected.
If contacting the retailer does not resolve your issue there may be a trade body or similar industry organisation that you can contact for support when complaining.
If you have exhausted all the steps outlined above you may wish to take legal advice on the best course of action. These can include court action or an alternative route to resolution such as arbitration or conciliation. A solicitor with consumer expertise will be best placed to outline the merits of each option.
Unresolved claims under £10,000
If the goods you are disputing are worth less than £10,000 you can take your case to the Small Claims Court. Note for these cases you cannot claim back legal costs from the supplier if your claim is successful.
However, despite being designed to be user-friendly, proceedings in the Small Claims Court can be complicated and stressful for those not used to dealing with the law. You may find some initial advice and guidance from a solicitor on the merits of your case and the best course of action useful. If your case is complex a solicitor can also assist you through the course of the case and you may be able to claim these legal costs back through household or personal insurance.
Claims over £10,000
If the goods or services you are claiming for is in excess of £10,000 you may be able to claim back a percentage of legal costs from the supplier at court.
Purchases using a credit card
If you’ve bought an item worth between £100 and £30,000 with a credit card, even where you have paid only in part of the full amount on the credit card, additional protection should generally apply under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Guarantees and warrantees
Remember that your contract is with the retailer who sold you the item – not the product manufacturer. It is the responsibility of the retailer to rectify the problem. Manufacturer’s guarantees are in addition to your statutory rights. If your statutory rights have been affected, you can use your guarantee as well as enforcing your consumer rights.
Help and guidance
If you are unhappy with a product or service and are unsure how to complain it is recommended that you seek legal advice. Speaking to an expert in the field of consumer law can equip you with the knowledge you need to get the best resolution for your complaint.