From 1 October 2015, the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 replaces a number of existing laws; consolidating eight pieces of separate legislation into a single piece of new legislation. The Act will change the rules relating to the supply of goods, services and digital content for contracts made from that date.
In brief the new Act aims to:
- make it easier for consumers to understand their rights and the remedies should they feel that goods/services do not live up to the promised standard;
- clarify when terms and conditions can be considered unfair;
- clarify the periods for repair, replacement and refunds related to both goods and services; and
- simplify the process by which businesses can take legal action against other, often larger, companies that are breaking competition laws.
Where goods do not meet the required standards, a number of remedies are available. Firstly, the consumer may reject the goods within 30 days and if the goods are rejected the consumer can ask for a full refund. The refund must be given without delay and no later than 14 days from the date the parties agree a refund is due. This remedy is not available where goods have been incorrectly installed.
Should a consumer decide that he does not want to reject the goods, or is out of time to do so, he may claim for the repair or replacement of the goods. A final remedy exists whereby if repair or replacement is not available a further right to reject the goods can be implemented. In respect of all available remedies the consumer has a statutory right to claim additional compensation if the goods have caused damage to property or personal injury.
It is worth noting the exceptions to when a consumer may not be entitled to a remedy under the Act. For example, a consumer cannot claim for defects that are brought to his attention before the sale, this includes if the consumer examines the goods before purchase and any defects should have been obvious on inspection.
A consumer cannot claim for damage it has caused or if he simply changes his mind about wanting the goods. Neither can a consumer make a claim for a product that was bought for a particular purpose and this purpose is not obvious or made known to the trader and it then becomes apparent that the item is unsuitable for that intended purpose. Lastly, a consumer has no rights to make a claim for faults that appear as a result of fair wear and tear.
Although most of the law in the new Act is similar to the existing laws it is advised that businesses and consumers alike take the time to familiarise themselves with these changes, ahead of the 1 October implementation date. In particular, as the Act affects how products should be offered to consumers, businesses ought to be aware of any changes they may need to make to their product terms and conditions and any other consumer-focused communications.