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This Act came into force from 1st October 2015, when the following Acts were repealed/amended: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.
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
- 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.
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.
The Consumer Rights Act discussed in the media:
More help with complaints against companies
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!
101 Habits of an Effective complainer designed to improve the way you look at and make complaints. Each page gives you a complaining habit to consider and an example of how and why it empowers you to become more effective in getting the results you want.