An overhaul of the ambiguous and fragmented law relating to consumer protection in the UK was long overdue. The confusion between businesses and consumers with respect to their rights and responsibilities was affecting fair business practices as well as consumer protection.
To remedy the situation, the government implemented a single comprehensive Consumer Rights Act 2015 on 1st October 2015. The aim of this piece of legislation is to reform, modernise and harmonise current consumer protection law on contracting for goods and services. The law also deals with the digital content for the first time. It would be fair to say that the new law swings to favour the consumer when it is not a business itself.
It is the time for all small and big businesses to consider what steps should be taken to proactively rewrite their terms and conditions to incorporate the new consumer protection regime.
Application – It covers the sales in a shop, at home, online and over the telephone
Goods – Goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for particular purpose, be as described and match a sample. The satisfactory quality test remains the same as under the old law but from 01/10/2015, any public statement will be relevant in deciding cases
Services – Services providers who do not carry out the work with reasonable care and skill will be obliged to put things right. In some cases, they may be required to give some or all money back
Digital content – New protection for consumers of digital content (for example ebooks or online films and music). The consumer rights are implied into every B2C contract for digital content. Digital content on hard copy will be effectively treated as goods (for example a CD).
• Right to a full refund for faulty goods up to 30 days after the purchase. (previously refunds were available for a “reasonable time”)
• Right to repair or replacement can be requested by the consumer at anytime
• Final right to reject or keep with price reduction
Differences between goods and digital content under the new law
• Unlike goods, there is no short term right to reject digital content unless it is on hard copy.
• Trader can only refuse to repair or replace if it is impossible or disproportionate as compared to the other available remedies (example right to price reduction)
• Also, traders are not limited to a single repair / replacement as is the case with good
♦ The new law covers second-hand goods, when bought through a retailer
♦ The cooling off period of 14 days for online and other distance and off-premises contracts. This can possibly be extended to up to a year if appropriate information not given at time of contract.
♦ The new law DOES NOT create a statutory right to a refund if the goods are not faulty (for example where a buyer changes his mind)
♦ Buyers can now take their complaints to certified Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers (this route is cheaper than courts)
♦ The Act enables British courts to hear class action lawsuits
If you are a trader, you should
– Review sales contracts including the content on your website and app terms
– Review limitation of liability clauses in your sales contracts
– Review cancellation and returns policies in your sales contracts.
– Train your sales staff to be aware of the basics of the new law
If you would like to discuss the implications of the new law on your business, please email Mr Akbar at email@example.com