What Does the Consumer Rights Act Mean for Businesses and Customers?

The Consumer Rights Act, introduced last year, has seen an overhaul of consumer protection laws in the UK. This means various existing pieces of legislation have been brought together and included in a new framework. The updated law was brought in with the intention of simplifying the rules for what refunds and replacements consumers are entitled to.

Companies in Essex, Suffolk and across East Anglia need to ensure they have put in place the consumer protection measures stipulated by the act. If you are a business affected by the changes, reviewing your procedures now can help to guard against potential problems later.

Consumer Rights Act

At the same time, customers also need to be aware of their rights under the law and make sure they apply for repairs, replacements or refunds within the relevant time limits. Here is a brief look at some of the main areas covered in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. However, if businesses or customers do run into legal problems over the act or any other consumer issue, then it's essential to get expert legal advice from a business lawyer.

Supply of Goods

The law sets down requirements for the expected standard of goods, which must be of “satisfactory” quality. This means they have to meet the expectations of a “reasonable” person in light of relevant circumstances, such as the price and product descriptions. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has issued guidance to businesses, which explains that, for instance, budget items aren't necessarily expected to be of the same quality as more expensive alternatives – but they are still expected to work and to be fit for the purpose they were sold for. 

For goods sold in a shop, there is normally a right for consumers to reject the item within 30 days if it is faulty or unsatisfactory and receive a full refund. If a fault develops after the 30-day period but within six months, the consumer has a right to a replacement or repair. However, if the item can't be repaired or replaced, then in most cases there is still the right to a full refund.

Between six months and six years after purchase, if a fault develops, the customer could still be entitled to a repair or replacement, or to some money back, depending on how long that type of product is normally expected to last. 

The same time limits apply for faulty goods bought at home, for instance via the internet. However, with most types of product, there is also a 14-day window where customers are allowed to send goods back if they change their mind, even if they aren't faulty – for instance, if clothes don't fit.

Supply of Digital Content

This is a relatively new area, but has become increasingly popular over recent years, with many goods, such as apps and games, being provided via the web and to our smartphones, tablets, consoles and computers.

Companies supplying digital content need to be aware of consumer rights under the law, which lays down that, as with physical items, the digital goods must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.

If digital content is faulty, the customer is entitled to a repair or replacement, and if it can't be put right within a “reasonable” time they could be able to claim part or even all of their money back. Under some circumstances, there could also be a right to have their device repaired and get compensation if the digital content has damaged it.

Provision of Services

The law also sets down expectations for provision of services, saying they need to be carried out with “reasonable care and skill”, and that if this isn't the case the contractor can be asked to put things right or give a partial refund. If a delivery time and/or price hasn't been agreed in advance, then these too have to be “reasonable”. In addition to this, for services paid for at home rather than in a shop, in most cases there is a right to cancel within 14 days.

What Should Businesses Do to Comply?

When the law was introduced last year, BIS suggested companies display its “point of sale” information to inform customers of their rights. This isn't an obligation but it was hoped that businesses would do so. As well as this, companies need to go over all their terms and policies to ensure they comply with the Act. This includes contracts, since the law also covers unfair terms in contracts. Key terms must be clearly displayed and staff must be trained in what's required.

The BIS guidance to help small business owners implement the law includes a lot of detail, but if you are in doubt about anything, it's a good idea to seek legal advice. In practice, no matter how careful you are to comply, various types of dispute could arise. For instance, the BIS guide says that it will be “ultimately for the court” to decide whether goods are satisfactory.

If you are involved in a consumer legal issue or contractual dispute which needs resolution, direct access barrister Marcus Croskell can help. As an expert business lawyer, he has represented many clients in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and London. He can provide advice and legal representation, both via mediation and negotiation and if a case ends up in court. 

If you would like expert legal advice and representation with your legal problem, contact Marcus Croskell for an initial free telephone consultation on 0843 886 2603 or email HERE.