What you need to know about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 digital content

CRAThe Consumer Rights Act 2015 comes into force on the 1st October 2015. (See the link for your rights) Part of the reasoning behind this Act was to consolidate Acts and cover digital content which is not covered by other laws written before their introduction! However, it is going to get very complicated, there is very little clarity about digital content on the net and what there is can be misleading. I have been in contact with the department for Business, Innovation and Skills, responsible for the CRA to try and get some clarity and this feeds into much of the below:

Key points:
1) Digital content covers items such as computer games, virtual items purchased with computer games, television programmes, films, books, computer software, mobile phone apps and system software for operating goods.

2) These digital goods are covered by the Act and therefore must be of satisfactory quality, as described, be fit for a particular purpose, match the description and be installed correctly when this has been agreed as part of the contract.

3) You can reject the goods within 30 days and insist on a full refund up to this time and a repair or replacement anytime up to 6 months. After 6 months you will need to prove that the fault was there at point of purchase and you have up to 6 years to claim.

Digital content non physical form
Ok, now this is where it gets complicated and the potential for challenges in court is high.
1) Non physical form such as downloads are not covered by the 30 day rule. You can see why, you could download something and use it and then try and get your money back.

2) The right to reject applies only to goods and digital content sold as part of the goods (often referred to as being on a tangible medium, such as a disc, but this also includes digital content that is within the goods, e.g. the program on a washing machine). Digital content that is downloaded is not subject to the right to reject as the consumer is not in a position to return the digital content

3) If the download has corrupted other apps on a device this may not be apparent for some time. A consumer may not discover this for some days, perhaps even after 30 days. If a washing machine damaged goods three months after purchase you should expect the retailer to reimburse costs of goods damaged by the washing machine so this would be the same with software.

4) If software or computer games are unopened they are considered tangible form and once opened and put on a machine/in a toy etc. the 30 day rule still applies.

5) Replacement or repair is, generally, a first stage that must be gone through before any refund is payable if someone downloads an ebook for example and then insists on refund for any reason. The repair or replacement must be within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, unless it is impossible or disproportionately expensive. Failing successful repair or replacement, the consumer could be entitled to a price reduction which can be up to the full price.

6) If a trader advertised that an ebook would work on a particular device but it was actually incompatible with that device, the consumer would be entitled to a repair or more likely a replacement in the form of a version that is compatible with the device. If that is not possible, then the consumer would be entitled to a reduction in the purchase price, up to a full refund.

7) There are no statutory provisions putting an obligation on the consumer to prove that the trader has breached the relevant consumer right. Replacement or repair is, generally, a first stage that must be gone through before any refund is payable, and this goes some way towards protecting traders against opportunistic claims. Traders will no doubt establish customs and practices to guard against abuses of the right in relation to digital goods.

8) If the consumer made a mistake and downloaded the wrong item, then this is not covered by the Consumer Rights Act. Depending on the specifics of the case, the consumer may have rights under the Consumer Contract Regulations (which provide the 14 day cooling off period for distance purchases) but many websites stipulate that by downloading the content the consumer loses that 14 day right as they have consumed the digital content.

And of course, if you need to know how to use this Act and many others, plus tips, advice and templates then you need to GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

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A Guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Consumer Rights Act 2015 legal crest

 

 

 

The Consumer Rights Act 2015

This Act came into force from 1st October 2015, when the following Acts were  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.

For goods and services purchased before October 1st 2015 see this post.

For more details on how the Consumer Rights Act 2015 covers digital goods, see this post. For more on using this law see this Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively.

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
  • safety
  • durability

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 accepting repair you still retain your legal rights.

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
  • films
  • books
  • 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.

Digital content

Rights are slightly more complicated see What you need to know about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 digital content for more details.

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)

You have up to 6 years in which you can bring a claim against a trader.

Unfair contracts

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. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this 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.

When you use this Act please also follow 20 Top Tips for Complaining and why you should write not phone.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Helen Dewdney talks to Rebecca Pike on Radio 2 Drive time about CRA

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Top 20 Tips for Complaining Effectively