The Consumer Rights Act 2015
When the new Act comes fully into force on 1st October 2015, in many ways, the position of the consumer will remain the same.
The new Consumer Rights Act 2015 will change the rules relating to the supply of goods, services and digital content for contracts made from that date. The purpose of the new Act is to bring together, improve and update existing consumer law.
From 1st October we will have a single set of rules which will apply to all contracts where goods are supplied, including sale, hire, hire-purchase and work / materials contracts. New rules will also apply to the supply of services, and the Act will also set out, for the first time, specific rules relating to digital content.
As some parts of this new legislation which derived from the EU had to be in force in all EU member States by June 2014, the main instruments by which the UK has already implemented parts of the EU Consumer Rights Directive (The Consumer Rights Act) are as follows:
CONSUMER RIGHTS (PAYMENT SURCHARGES) REGS 2012
These came into force on the 6th April 2013 and from this date you no longer have to pay excessive fees, for example when paying for goods using a credit card. You should pay no more than what it costs the business to process the cost of using the card.
CONSUMER CONTRACTS (INFORMATION, CANCELLATION AND ADDITIONAL PAYMENTS) REGS 2013
These came into force on the 13th June 2014 and REPLACED the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling Regulations 2000 and the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumers Home or Place of Work etc Regs 2008 (AKA Doorstop Selling Regs).
These Regulations take a similar approach to the old Distance Selling Regulations but introduce some significant new obligations.
The key changes are that the cancellation period has been extended from 7 to 14 days. You can now cancel services started in the cancellation period (this was not possible under the previous Distance Selling Regulations).
Traders selling at a distance or off-premises can now withhold a refund until goods are returned. Traders can also now deduct money from a refund where an item appears to have been used “excessively” i.e. beyond normal handling to see if the goods are as expected.
There are also requirements that, where traders offer telephone helplines for calls by customers to complain or enquire about a product, you must not pay more than the basic rate for the call.
There is also now a requirement to obtain your active consent for any additional payments. This means pre-ticked boxes are no longer allowed. If you do wish to consent to any additional payment, then you will now have to actually tick any boxes.
CONSUMER PROTECTION UNFAIR TRADING (AMENDMENT) REGS 2014
These came into force in October 2014 and gives you the right to get your money back if you are misled or intimidated when buying – or signing a contract for – goods or services.
If you are a victim of a misled or aggressive sales practice, then you can demand either:
- A full refund if you act within 90 days; or
- A discount on the price
These Regs fill the gap in consumer protection left by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which made it a criminal offence for traders to misled or intimidate consumers, but did not give consumers any civil rights of redress. You now have that right of redress.
Under the Consumer Rights Act the easily recognisable terms implied into contracts for the sale of goods and/or services – fitness for purpose, satisfactory quality, and goods corresponding with description – remain the same as the Sale of Goods Act.
However the main changes can be summarised as follows:
- If you receive faulty goods, you can return them within 30 days for a full refund – as opposed to within a “reasonable time,” under the Sale of Goods Act. This often caused problems, as a “reasonable time” was often interpreted by businesses in varying ways. Under the CRA if you return the faulty goods after 30 days (but within 6 months) you will get replacement or repaired goods.
- Depending on the goods bought, you have in the past been forced to go through a series of repairs or replacements before you were entitled to a refund. Under the new Consumer Rights Act if you buy a product that is faulty, you can request a repair or a replacement. However, if that repair or replacement is not successful – or if another fault occurs – you can demand a refund, or a reduction in price. If you request a refund more than six months after purchase, the retailer is entitled to reduce the amount refunded to take account of the use that you have had of the item. The retailer can also reduce the refund within the first six months if there is an active second hand market for the item.
- With regard to purchasing services under the new Consumer Rights Act, the familiar implied terms which are currently under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 still remain. However the new Act includes new statutory remedies which will allow you, if you have received a substandard service to be able to demand that those services are repeated or get a price reduction.
- As at 13th June 2014 (see above) you have been able to cancel contracts up to 14 calendar days from the conclusion of a contract for services or from the date of receiving goods and you are entitled to receive a full refund. This cooling off period prior to this date used to be 7 working days. This was under the old Distance Selling Regulations.
- You are no longer bound where boxes are already ticked for added services or goods – commonly found when booking budget air tickets. Under the new CRA all businesses should ensure that any tick-boxes are un-ticked and allow you to actively tick and therefore positively choose to add services or goods. A most welcome change.
- For the first time, suppliers of digital content (such as music downloads or online games) must have the right to do so and will be required to ensure that such content is of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. This is a new concept and the Act differentiates digital content from goods and services, to resolve the often grey area under the current legislation, where it was difficult to determine whether digital content was either “goods” or “services”. The new Act will clarify this, and allow you the right to the repair or replacement (or indeed a price reduction) if digital content downloaded is faulty. For example you pay to download a popular TV series which is described as containing all 18 episodes. When you download it you find that the final episode is missing. Under the Consumer Rights Act, the digital content is not as described. Under the Act you would be entitled to a repair or replacement of the digital content, to bring it in line with the description. In this instance, an appropriate remedy may be a download of the final episode. How the quality and fitness for purpose of services is defined is going to be a grey area and time will tell what levels are deemed satisfactory.
- Under the E-Commerce Regulations, businesses have to provide certain information about them when contracting with you. The new Consumer Rights Bill will make this requirement contractually binding on businesses.
- The new Act makes it clear that businesses dealing with you in an unfair or negligent manner will not be able to enforce their contracts and may be in breach for failing to take reasonable care or exercise reasonable skill.
- Under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 the subject matter and price of a contract were excluded from being assessed for fairness by a court. A key provision of the new Consumer Rights Bill will seek to remedy this. From 1st October 2015 subject matter and price will still be excluded from a fairness assessment as long as they are “transparent and prominent”. Again a most welcome change.
In conclusion, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 will increase legal certainty for you, the consumer and hopefully increase business across Europe by reducing the costs to businesses from having to interpret different consumer laws. While the proposals will increase your legal rights and require suppliers to review their policies in the short term – in the long term, the revised regime should make it much easier to navigate for everyone