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12 February 2019

Consumer Rights

It is important to know your rights as a consumer and the best ways to deal with any issues you are faced with.

What is the consumer rights act and what does it do?

Consumer rights protect you when you buy goods and services. This means you have rights by law, which a shop or service provider can’t change.

When you purchase goods or services you are entering into a contract with a provider. There are certain rights implied by law which always apply when dealing with consumers.

These statutory obligations, also known as consumer rights, are there to ensure that certain conditions are met in relation to the quality and standard of your goods or services.

What types of goods/services does the consumer rights act apply to?

The Consumer Rights Act applies to both goods (clothing, equipment, food etc.), digital content (music, videos, games, apps etc.) and services (car repair, hairdressing, building works etc.), as well as contracts where goods are supplied with a service.

What are my consumer rights?

Satisfactory Quality: What a reasonable person would be happy with i.e. in a state that you would consider acceptable.

Fit for Purpose: This is more objective than satisfactory quality, if a supplier sells an item for a particular purpose, can that purpose be fulfilled.

As described: this is particularly useful with online goods, but if the goods or service are sold or marketed with a description, they must be in line with the “write up”.

What are the time limits in relation to exercising such rights?

Consumers are entitled to a full refund if these rights are not satisfied, within 30 days of delivery.

After that, you’ll have fewer rights, such as only being able to ask for a repair or replacement. Some retailers do allow for a longer period of refund but this is not legally required. In some circumstances, such as where goods cannot be repaired, then you might have the right to reject the goods outside the 30 day period.

When goods are faulty, if you return them within six months, then it’s generally up to the retailer to prove they weren’t faulty when you bought them. After this, the burden of proof shifts and it’s up to you to prove they were faulty when you bought them.

What about second hand goods?

If the item’s second-hand or reduced, it doesn’t mean you get second-rate consumer rights, except where the seller pointed out the specific problems prior to purchase.

The goods must be of satisfactory quality and, if they’re faulty, you can return them. Whether goods are satisfactory quality depends on all the circumstances, so that goods specifically sold “second-hand” might not have to be of the same standard as goods sold “as new”.

If you’re buying second-hand goods from a private seller (someone who doesn’t sell goods as part of their living) the statutory rights will not apply. The only protection is that it’s correctly described and the owner has the right to sell it.

If goods are faulty or service is inadequate, what should I do?

First, talk to the retailer and tell them what you want to happen – exchange, refund or repair. Disputes are rare, but can happen.

If a major chain won’t accept that they’re in the wrong, start with the store where you purchased the goods or services and then if that doesn’t, go to regional managers or head offices.

Should confronting the seller/provider not work, what options of dispute resolution are there?

You will need to write to the retailler formally setting out the nature of the problem and what you want to happen. Make sure you keep copies as these letters will help if you need to take the matter to court.

There are various online tools which can help you draft and even manage your complaint. Some services, such as Citizens Advice are free, but always check whether any fees apply.

Check whether the retailer has signed up with an ombudsman, mediation, or “Alternative Dispute Resolution” scheme; this can be an effective way of achieving a resolution without legal action.

Another option is to instruct lawyers. Prices vary, so be sure to check, but this can be quite an effective method particularly if a matter is complex or high value.

Issuing a claim in court?

If all else fails then you might need to take the matter to court by issuing a claim.

The “small claims court” is a very useful way for individuals and businesses to have their disputes heard. Claims for up to £10,000 are usually dealt with in this way.

You can choose to have legal representation, but you don’t always need it. Your claim can be issued online and is relatively straight forward to issue. The small claims court was introduced to encourage individuals to pursue smaller values of money owed to them, without incurring the substantial fees. You will, however, need to pay the court fees.

If you are successful in the small claims court, you can usually recover the court fees, but you will not generally get any legal costs (such as the costs of asking a lawyer to deal with the matter for you).