The Consumer Rights Act 2015
This Act comes into force from 1st October 2015, when the following Acts will be repealed/amended:
Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973 will cover business to business contracts and consumer to consumer contracts only.
Sale of Goods Act 1979/ Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 will still apply to business to business contracts and to consumer to consumer contracts.
Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 will cover business to business contracts and consumer to consumer contracts only.
Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 will be replaced
Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 will cover business to business and consumer to consumer contracts only.
Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 will be replaced.
The sale and supply of goods
The person transferring or selling the goods must have the right to do so and the goods must be of a satisfactory quality. Goods must be of a standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory. Quality is a general term, which covers a number of matters including:
- fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied – appearance and finish
- freedom from minor defects
In assessing quality, all relevant circumstances must be considered by the retailer, including price, description, and their own or the manufacturer’s advertising. Goods must:
- be fit for a particular purpose. When you indicate that goods are required for a particular purpose, or where it is obvious that goods are intended for a particular purpose and a trader supplies them to meet that requirement, the goods should be fit for that specified purpose.
- match the description, sample or model. When you rely on a description, sample or display model the goods supplied must conform
- be installed correctly, where installation has been agreed as part of the contract.
The consumer can reject the goods within 30 days unless the expected life of the goods is shorter e.g. highly perishable goods. You can also choose repair or replacement in this time and up to 6 months after purchase as it is assumed that the fault was there at the time of delivery unless the trader can prove otherwise or unless this assumption is inconsistent with the circumstances (for example, obvious signs of misuse).
If more than six months have passed, you have to prove the defect was there at the time of delivery. You must also prove the defect was there at the time of delivery if you exercise the short-term right to reject goods. Some defects do not become apparent until some time after delivery, and in these cases it is enough to prove that there was an underlying or hidden defect at that time.
All these rules also apply for distance selling and digital goods.
The Act defines ‘digital content’ as meaning ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form’. Therefore a huge array of digital-format products fall within this definition such as:
- computer games
- virtual items purchased within computer games
- television programmes
- computer software
- mobile phone apps
- systems software for operating goods – for example, domestic appliances, toys, motor vehicles, etc. In many cases digital content is supplied in a format that can be physically touched such as a Blu-ray disc containing a film. Increasingly, however, digital content does not have a tangible form – for example, a film downloaded to a computer or a virtual car purchased when playing a computer game.
The contract for the supply of services
A contract is an agreement consisting of an offer and acceptance. When a consumer buys services from a trader, both parties enter into a contract which is legally binding. In order for a term to be binding it must clearly be part of the contract and be legal. Terms given to a consumer after the contract is made are not part of the contract and they have no effect. A contract can be verbal but it is advisable to detail important terms in writing so there can be no dispute later on.
All services should be carried out:
- with reasonable care and skill.
- information given verbally or in writing to the consumer is binding where the consumer relies on it.
- the service must be done for a reasonable price (if no fixed price was set in advance)
- the service must be carried out within a reasonable time (if no specific time was agreed)
The law creates a ‘fairness test’ to stop consumers being put at unfair disadvantage. A term is unfair if it tilts the rights and responsibilities between the consumer and the trader too much in favour of the trader. The test is applied by looking at what words are used and how they could be interpreted. It takes into consideration what is being sold, what the other terms of the contract say and all the circumstances at the time the term was agreed. There is an exemption for the essential obligations of contracts – setting the price and describing the main subject matter – provided the wording used is clear and prominent. There is also an exemption for wording that has to be used by law.
The Consumer Rights Act contains equivalent rights and protections to the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. This means that, though there may be some technical differences in the way these aspects are implemented, from a consumer’s point of view there would be no difference – under the Consumer Rights Act the consumer may argue that a term is unfair in the same way as they would have under the aforementioned Acts.
To ensure that you know your rights and how to use them take a look at How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results, as one reviewer says you’ll get more than your money back the first time you use it!