Businesses have until 1st October to get ready for new consumer rights and dispute resolution procedures
Consumers have new rights from October, including a 30-day period to claim a full refund on faulty goods and, for the first time, protections on digital content purchases. They can also challenge unfair or hidden trading terms.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 consolidates eight pieces of separate legislation in this area and whilst most of the changes are updates to existing laws, there are some important new areas covered.
For businesses, it means processes and trading terms must be updated to match the new legislation, as well as ensuring staff are fully briefed. Alongside, there are also new requirements on businesses to prepare for consumer dispute resolution.
Under the Act:
- The new law sees the introduction of rules around what happens where services are not provided with reasonable care and skill, or as they were agreed. In such cases, consumers can now demand that sub-standard services are re-done or receive a price reduction
- A 30-day time period to return faulty goods and get a full refund – until now, the law has been unclear on how long is a “reasonable” period for goods to be rejected
- After one failed repair, or after one replacement which has also failed, consumers can demand their money back, in full, during the first six months, rather than having to agree to repeated attempts to get a repair done
- Any unfair or hidden terms can be challenged by consumers
- New rights for consumers for a repair or a replacement of faulty digital content such as online film, games, music downloads and e-books.
Businesses have until 1st October to educate staff about the changes the new legislation brings, although some of the rights introduced by the Act came into force earlier in the year. These covered publication of fee tariffs by letting agents and requirements on ticket resellers.
The aim of the new Act is to reduce disagreement and court action, but where a dispute cannot be resolved directly between the supplier and consumer, the Government is hoping that dispute resolution, which uses techniques such as mediation or arbitration, will provide a quicker and cheaper route than the courts. From October, traders will have to provide the consumer with a route to Alternative Dispute Resolution through a certified scheme, which could be through their relevant trade body or similar organisation, if they cannot resolve the dispute directly.
Legal expert Elissa Thursfield of solicitors Gamlins Law in Rhyl said: “There are a number of changes and any business selling to consumers will need to be prepared. It’s important that terms and conditions are reviewed and updated as necessary. In future, these must be prominent and transparent, if traders want to avoid finding themselves being assessed for fairness. So, if you have hugely detailed small print that no one could possibly read, it’s worth seeing whether you can reduce this, or at the very least making sure that there’s nothing hidden in there that the consumer should know about up-front.
“It’s very important that staff are fully briefed on the extent of the new law as there are a number of far-reaching implications. For example, where a consumer specifies a purpose when buying and is advised by a member of staff, it’s important that the goods or services are going to be suitable for that purpose; otherwise if it fails to deliver, they have a right to claim their money back.”
“For suppliers of digital content, it’s important that traders ensure they are complying with the aspects of the new legislation that specifically relate to them. In the past the law has been unclear in this area, as it failed to keep up with the huge growth and demand for digital products.”
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