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The Consumer Rights Act 2015

£90billion pounds is spent by consumers in the UK every month.

This figure is not surprising with more choice and variety of products being available online and now being able to shop wherever you are on a smart phone or tablet. Shopping has never been so easy. Consumer law on the other hand has become increasingly more complicated.

However from 1 October 2015, The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force. The Act has consolidated eight pieces of consumer legislation including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. “This is the biggest shake up of consumer law for a generation, bringing legislation in line with the fact that many people now buy online” stated the Business Secretary, Vince Cable.

The aim of the Act is to make the law easier to understand for both consumers and businesses. The government predicts that the Act will “boost the economy by £4 billion” over the course of the next decade. Some key changes are detailed below:

30 Day Refund Policy

The most important reform under the Act is the right for consumers to reject goods and ask for a full refund within 30 days if the item is faulty. Previously, the time limit was unclear and was defined in law as a “reasonable length of time” which was deemed by some retailers to be as little as seven days. The refund must be given without delay and, in any event, within 14 days from the date the retailer agrees to give the consumer a refund.

If the consumer chooses not to exercise their right to reject (or is outside of the 30 day rejection period) they are still entitled to claim for repair or replacement.

The ‘right to reject’ only applies if the goods are faulty and does not apply where there has merely been a change of mind by the consumer.

Unfair Contract Terms

Challenging unfair contract terms has been made much simpler and it will now be easier for consumers to challenge hidden fees and charges. Previously, terms were exempt from a fairness test if they were written in clear, unambiguous language. Key terms of a contract, including price, must now not only be ‘transparent’ but also ‘prominent’. The added ‘prominence’ requirement means that retailers now need to be even more vigilant in ensuring that relevant terms are clearly brought to a consumer’s attention.

Digital Content

For the first time ever legal protection has been provided when buying digital content such as downloading or streaming digital music, apps, online films, games or e-books. If the item is faulty, the Act now gives consumers a clear right to repair or replacement. Furthermore, if the download causes damage to a device or to other digital content then the retailer is liable to pay compensation.

If you are a retailer you will have to ensure that your staff are aware of the changes under the Act otherwise you may face prosecution. If a consumer is provided with misleading information an action may now be pursued for breach of contract against the retailer. Ensure that your return policies and complaints procedures are up to date and ensure your contracts with customers do not contain any unfair terms.

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