Your Consumer Rights
There was a time not that long ago where simple making a purchase meant taking a risk. People didn’t have access to the kind of protection and support that they now do. Records of payments and customer service departments were just an idea, and you never quite knew what kind of deal you were getting. In short; for a consumer, the market was a minefield.
Nowadays, we don’t have to worry as much about these kinds of problems. We all know that there are rights designated to us to protect consumer and seller alike. Most of us know our rights better now than ever. We understand that we don’t have to accept unfair or disreputable treatment and that there are ways to prevent it, or rectify it when it happens. But what exactly are our rights? Do we all know exactly what we are entitled to? Throughout this article, we’ll be having a deeper look at just what ‘Consumer Rights’ means in everyday life.
The Heart of Consumer Rights
There are of course fundamental ideas that govern what we now know as consumer rights. Before we discuss those, it’s important to note what the legislation specifically concerns, these being:
- Digital Content
The main legislative documents that cover consumer rights are; Consumer Rights Act 2015, Consumer Contracts Regulations (2014) and the Data Protection Act (GDPR) (2018), or for goods and services acquired before 1st October 2015, The Sale of Goods Act (1979) and Supply of Good and Services Act (1982).
Of these, the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 is the most widely governing piece of legislation.
Core Values of Consumer Rights
First, we’ll cover rights that affects goods. The most basic of these pertain to the level of quality of goods sold. They are as follows:
1) Goods must be of a satisfactory quality
This is not to say that everything sold must be brand new. Goods merely have to be to a standard that you would expect to receive them (unless otherwise stated and agreed upon).
2) They must be fit for purpose
As you may expect, goods purchased need to be able to perform the function that they were purchased for. An umbrella must protect you from the rain. Similarly, a car must be able to be driven safely.
3) Goods must be as described
Aside from being of a sufficient quality and functional, goods must be as described. If items are purchased online, for instance, and a description is provided, it must match the item which is received. Put simply, the more detailed the description, the more closely the product must resemble it.
Quite sensible right? But these are far from the only rules governing our rights. Others depend upon the length of time you’ve had a product, where you bought it from (in person, online, etc.) or who/where it was purchased from.
How does purchasing time affect my rights?
Within the first 30 days
You are fully entitled to return any item which sufficiently does not fulfil one of the 3 main criteria; satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. This entitles you to a full refund. Digital downloads are not covered within this, but you can request to download the relevant items again and if still unsuccessful, you can request a discount.
When it comes to online purchases, within 14 days you can request a refund completely regardless of circumstances, whether a product has contravened a core consumer rights principle or not. This gives you 14 days again before it has to be returned. For services or digital content, you have the same 14 days unless you have agreed to something else.
NB/ If you weren’t informed of your rights upon purchase, you will have 1 full year and 14 days in recompense.
For perishable good, the timeframe is looser and will be determined by a ‘reasonable amount of time’ which will depend on what the object is. Fruit for instance would fall well within a week in most cases.
Over 30 days and prior to 6 months
In this timeframe, you no longer become entitled to a full refund, but if there does prove to be an issue with a purchase, you are entitled to ask for a replacement or repair at the expense of the seller. You have to give them one opportunity, and can stipulate which you prefer, but ultimately the retailer can decide.
Despite this, a partial or full refund are prioritised if any of the following are true:
- Cost of repair/replacement is not proportional to the value of the goods
- Repair/replacement is not possible
- Repair/replacement would cause you significant inconvenience
- Repair would take an unreasonably long amount of time.
Digital downloads remain consistent, with you being able to request amelioration if something goes wrong.
Within 6 months
For anything purchased within 6 months that develops a fault, it is assumed to be the responsibility of the manufacturer. The burden of proof that it isn’t will therefore be on the retailer. If the product itself fails, or a replacement does, at any point you have the right to ask for a full refund or at least a price reduction. The only exception for this will be cars, for which a reasonable reduction can be made for any wear and tear after the first 30 days but still within 6 months.
Finally, if a fault develops in excess of 6 months, you will be expected to prove beyond doubt that it was caused by the retailer/manufacturer if you wish to receive any reparations.
When looking at purchases/sales made before 1st October 2015, previous legislation applies. This means there is no strict 30 day/6 months limits for refunds or replacements, the wording is that ‘a reasonable amount of time’ must be given. Now given that this will apply to items that are almost all 5 years old or even more, it won’t apply in many cases, but it’s still worth remembering if this affects you.
*It’s also important to remember that most retailers have their own policies when it comes to refund and the like. Whilst these policies can’t contradict the laws in any way,retailers often have more generous rules that further benefit the purchaser. For example, electronics often have longer warranty periods of 2,5 or 10 years to further encourage people to buy. Here are a couple of examples:
1) Boots – You can return any unwanted items free of charge within 35 days for a refund/replacement
2) For Dixons, within 21 days of the purchase date to any Dixons Travel or Currys PC World store in the UK you can make a return/refund.
If you want to know the specific policy of a company/organisation, they will have a section on their website that’ll lead you in the right direction, or if not, you can contact them and they will give you the answer.
Further to this, there may be differing laws when purchasing from outside of the UK but within Europe. These will be set to change only further by the end of January 2021 when the Brexit deal has officially been finalised and Britain leaves the European Union.
If I want to make a complaint, how do I go about it?
STEP 1: The first port of call, before making a complaint, should always be to try and see if you can resolve your dispute prior to escalating it further to a third party. However, if you just can’t reach a resolution, there are a number of different ways to do so.
STEP 2: The second level of escalation should be to consult an advice service. The most notable of these are trading standards or Citizen’s Advice Bureaus. If you become uncertain for any reason, they will be able to give you not only accurate, but tailored advice to you and your situation. In the case of trading standards, they can take things further if they think that you have been unfairly treated.
STEP 3: If you really feel that your complaints are not being listened to and that you require redress, your next step is an Ombudsman. There are various Ombudsman services depending on the sector of the product that you have purchased. They will undertake complaints for free on your behalf and put them to the relevant company. This can often preclude the need to go to court as the authority of Ombudman services is highly recognised and respected.
STEP 4: Once your dispute has been taken to a company and both sides cannot agree a resolution, the escalating body is called an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). As their name suggests, they enter into the discussion when no conclusion can be reached by either party but no clear fault is identified either. They have a high level of authority, but once again negate the need to take your claim to court. The level of success will entirely depend on the merits of the case, and victory at this stage is far from guaranteed.
STEP 5: Finally, if none of the above solutions work, cases can be taken to court. Such a solution is not to be used without just cause. Court cases bring high-risk outcomes, with the possibility for large settlements in the case of a win or suspected win, but losing will become a costly endeavour that may leave you far worse off than in the first instance. Use as an absolute last resort, and onnly once legal consultation beleves you have a strong case.