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

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and digital goods

CRA

The 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 about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and digital goods:

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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Consumer Rights Act and Alternative Dispute Resolution discussed on Moneybox

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A Guide to your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

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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 covers business to business contracts and consumer to consumer contracts only.

Sale of Goods Act 1979/ Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 applies to business to business contracts and to consumer to consumer contracts only.

Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 covers business to business contracts and consumer to consumer contracts only.

Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 was replaced

Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 covers business to business and consumer to consumer contracts only.

Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 was replaced.

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

The sale and supply of goods

The person transferring or selling goods must have the right to do so. Goods must be of a satisfactory quality and of a standard that a reasonable person would regard as such. 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.
  • 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.

Rejecting goods under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

You can reject the goods within 30 days from purchase unless the expected life of the goods is shorter e.g. highly perishable goods. After this time the trader can offer a repair or replacement. Up to 6 months from the date of purchase it is assumed that the fault was there at the time of delivery. The exception to this would be if 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 has passed, you have to prove the defect was there at the time of purchase. You must also prove the defect was there at the time of delivery when you exercise the short-term right to reject goods. Some defects do not become apparent until some time after delivery. 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.

Consumer rights regarding digital goods under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

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. E.g. 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. E.g. a film downloaded to a computer or a virtual car purchased when playing a computer game.

More information on digital content consumer rights

Consumer rights for  digital content 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 you buy services from a trader, both you and them 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, but the wording used must be clear and prominent. There is also an exemption for wording that has to be used by law. If you are 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 although 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 done under the aforementioned Acts.

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

The Consumer Rights Act discussed in the media:

Discussing the Consumer Rights Act 2015 with Rebecca Pike on Radio 2 Drive time

Consumer Rights Act and Alternative Dispute Resolution discussed on Moneybox

More help with complaints against companies

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