Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

As a nation the British aren’t very good at complaining. Fewer than 45% of us know and use our legal rights.[1]

Although there is an increase in using social media to complain and whilst this may be considered complaining, it often doesn’t gain the legal redress that letters or emails can elicit. The main reasons cited by people for not complaining are that it takes too much time and effort and that they are unsure of their legal rights.

The Consumer Rights Act, introduced on the 1st October, consolidated a number of Acts and introduced cover for digital goods, but with so few people currently knowing and using their legal rights the numbers complaining might decrease still further.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer rights blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! touched upon this on Rip Off Britain Live on 22 October.[2]  Dewdney says that whenever she has used EU law when complaining it has made it easier to gain redress.

Recently a friend of hers booked a hotel in Germany through an online travel agent based in the Netherlands. He was told that the booking did not complete and to book with the hotel directly. When he did this he incurred a 7% admin fee on the credit card payment where there had been none before. Dewdney says “The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case here. The email from the website stated that he needed to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email clearly led him to believe that his contract was still with the website acting as a travel agent but the hotel would only be processing it. The “invoice” which he received after payment showed the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge.[3] Dewdney succeeded in getting a refund of the full fee. (Full story here).

With more and more of us shopping online it is becoming increasing necessary to not only know our legal consumer rights for this country but in the EU too. If you need help with fighting a case across borders within the EU, the UK European Consumer Centre can advise.

How well do you know your rights? Here’s a list of some you may need to know : [5]

1) The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) [4] 
Understanding what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs

Burden of proof of contract lies with trader

Right to change your mind when buying at a distance or off premises with a 14 days cooling off period

Deliveries without undue delay within 30 days unless other time frame agreed by both parties

Pre-ticked boxes for additional payments are not allowed

2) EU Directive 1999/44/EC
Minimum 2 year limitation period within which you can bring a legal claim against the retailer from whom you purchased the goods. (In UK it is maximum of 6 years under the Consumer Rights Act 2015)

3) Unfair Consumer Contracts Regulations EU Directive 93/13/EEC
Where you and the trader haven’t negotiated terms a contract term can be deemed as unfair if it creates “significant imbalance” in the trader and consumer’s positions.

4) Denied Boarding Regulations EU EC261
Compensation if your flight is delayed (amounts vary for length and distance departing from any EU airport regardless of airline. More details here.

5) The ADR Directive 2013/11/EU
Consumers can use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders. This applies no matter what they purchased (excluding disputes about health and higher education) and whether they purchased it online or offline, domestically or across borders. In the UK retailers need only “signpost” to an ADR scheme, as it is not mandatory for retailers to belong to a scheme.[6]  More here.

[1] Fewer than 45% of People in the UK use their Consumer Rights according to research published in October 2014 here.

[2] Rip Off Britain Live 22 October 2015.

[3] More on the story here

[4] This directive replaces, as of 13 June 2014, Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts and Directive 85/577/EEC to protect consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises. Directive 1999/44/EC, on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees as well as Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, remains in force.

[5] More details available from Helen Dewdney.

[6] More details about ADR in the UK here

Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries

Mail order and online purchases

Your rights when purchasing items through an advert or catalogue are exactly the same as buying from any other retailer, so your correspondence about faulty items would be covered under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. In addition, under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds. There are some exceptions to this such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid depends on the trader’s terms and conditions. If you paid extra for speedier delivery and it wasn’t delivered within this time you are entitled to the charge back. If the item is faulty you do not pay return postage and you should receive the full cost of any postage paid for sending the item to you.

Parcel outside door, delivery notirrived? Arrived late? Left and stolen? Your rights to redress

You are also entitled to any out of pocket expenses if the company don’t turn up when they say they will, such as time off work wages if you have to arrange another date for delivery.

Digital purchases

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides specific coverage for digital content. Digital content must not be supplied by the retailer within the 14 cooling off period unless the customer has agreed to it and that once the download starts the cancellation right is lost. If the customer does not give consent then s/he will have to wait until after the 14 days before downloading. Having bought the wrong download and realising it before I actually downloaded but before this new law came out I welcome this Act! All I could do was tell them that the Law was changing!

Delivery

The aforementioned Act also states that goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

Of course, deliveries must also be carried out with reasonable skill and care. See my experience with the Body Shop here. I was on the ITV news regarding that story, I gave advice which they cut and Martin Lewis said if we complained more then service would improve. Something that followers of me on  Twitter and read this blog know that I bang on about a lot!

Package delivered but not received?!

What if your plant pot denies signing for your parcel? Well the delivery company won’t have proof of the signature (I assume of course, I may be wrong) and if your parcel isn’t there, say because I don’t know, it’s out in the open on a busy road and it’s a really stupid place to put it, what do you do?

By providing details for a “safe place” you are agreeing to it being safe! If there is a chance that it could be stolen don’t use it as a safe place! Common sense really! It has become your property as the retailer has left the item where you specified. You could possibly try and claim from your insurer.

If however, some fool has put it in a wheelie bin and it is bin collection date and you don’t get the parcel then it has not been delivered with reasonable skill and care and you are entitled to a full refund.

Mind you, Laura (the presenter) said the carpet was cream. She must have thought the carpet was filthy because it was never cream! It is a dark pinky purple beigey type thing!

To whom do you complain when deliveries go wrong?

I see so much people complaining about the courier company. Unless you paid the courier company direct (extremely unlikely when purchasing items online) your contract is with the retailer. So when a courier company, let’s call it Model, is utterly useless and leaves your package somewhere to be stolen or throws it in the garden breaking the contents, it is the retailer from whom you claim. Even if they try and fob you off and say contact Model, don’t. The retailer can deal with the courier and perhaps when they’ve had enough complaints they’ll drop the contract and use a better firm. If you have difficulties you can go to the CEO of the company to whom you paid the money and find their contact details here.

Returns

If you need the retailer to pick up the item because it is bulky, put the request in writing (why it is important to write not phone) provide a deadline for when they can pick it up or you will dispose of the item.

Template letter for an item not received.

Further protection

Should consumers order an item from an advertisement in a newspaper which is signed up to the Safe Home Ordering Scheme (previously known as the Mail Ordering Protection Scheme) they can get their money back if the trader goes into liquidation or stops trading. Keep a copy of the advert when ordering until the item has been received.

Outside of the EU

You don’t have the protection. See Don’t let shopping online become a “rip off” for more.

Further help

Top 20 Tips How to complain effectively

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

If you need more help, information and tips with how to quote Acts, template letters and advice on how to complain effectively don’t forget the GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

Also more free tips here and on the Youtube channel.

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