If you sell goods or services to individual consumers (rather than other businesses), you should be aware that consumer law changed on 1 October 2015, when the Consumer Rights Act came into force. The changes cover:
- what should happen when goods are faulty
- unfair terms in a contract
- what happens when a business is acting in a way which isn’t competitive
- greater flexibility for trading standards to respond to breaches of consumer law, such as seeking redress for consumers who have suffered harm.
As well as these changes there are two new areas of law covering:
- what should happen when digital content (such as online films, games, apps or e-books) is faulty – the Act now gives consumers a clear right to repair or replacement.
- how services should match up to what has been agreed, and what should happen when they do not or when they are not provided with reasonable care and skill (e.g. giving some money back if it is not practical to bring the service into line with what was agreed).
According to the Government, UK consumers spend £90 billion a month. New transparent rights will help them to make better choices when they buy, generating the opportunity for businesses to compete, innovate and grow. Businesses and consumers who understand their rights and responsibilities should also save time and money by avoiding costly disputes. The Consumer Rights Act replaces a number of laws with regard to business-to-consumer transactions, including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
In summary, the main rights are as follows:
Purchase of goods
The Act says goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. During the expected lifespan of your product a consumer is entitled to the following:
Up to 30 days after purchase: if goods are faulty, they can get an immediate refund
Up to 6 months after purchase: if it can’t be repaired or replaced, then the consumer is entitled to a full refund in most cases.
Up to 6 years after purchase: if the goods do not last a reasonable length of time, a consumer may be entitled to some money back.
If goods or services are ordered remotely or online the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 also allow the customer up to 14 days from receipt of the goods to change their mind and get a full refund.
There are some exceptions to this, for example if the goods are perishable or made specifically to order.
Purchase of services
The Act says:
A customer can ask supplier to repeat or fix a service if it’s not carried out with reasonable care and skill, or get some money back if they can’t fix it.
If you haven’t agreed a price beforehand, what the customer is asked to pay must be reasonable.
If you haven’t agreed a time period beforehand, the service must be carried out within a reasonable time.
If the customer orders services remotely or online, again the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 allow the customer in most cases to cancel within 14 days. But if they agree the service should start within this time (e.g. because the job is urgent), you can still charge them for what they have used.
Selling digital content
The Act requires that digital content must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. If digital content is faulty, the customer is entitled to a repair or a replacement.
If the fault can’t be fixed, or if it hasn’t been fixed within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience, the customer can get some, or all of their money back.
If they can show the fault has damaged their device and you haven’t used reasonable care and skill, they may be entitled to a repair or compensation.
Also the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 give consumers of digital content a 14 day right to change their mind and get a full refund on digital content. But they do not have this right to cancel once a download has started, provided you have told them this and they have acknowledged this – website order forms should be amended accordingly.
If you sell goods and services to the public, it is important to be aware of these changes and adjust your terms and conditions and website wording accordingly. If you would like us to review your terms and conditions for compliance, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or 01625 260577.
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