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New and improved - Consumer Rights Act comes into force

Luke Whitmore - Law on the Web

  1. 01 October 2015
  2. Consumers
  3. 0 comments
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The Consumer Rights Act comes into force today, simplifying consumer law and providing a range of additional protections when you buy something. Some parts of the Act are just updated versions of old consumer rights – but what new options do you have?

Fairness in contracts

A lot of the changes to consumer law from the Act revolve around fairness in consumer contracts – that is, the contracts signed when agreeing to purchase a product or service.

The biggest change is to the terms in a contract which explain “the main subject matter of a contract” (i.e. what you are paying for) and the price of this product or service. Consumer law already required these terms to be explained in clear and comprehensible language, but they should now also be ‘prominent’ – the trader should ensure that they are brought to your attention.

The Consumer Rights Act also adds a number of contract terms to a list of those which are likely to be considered unfair by courts. These terms include anything which lets traders decide the subject matter or price of a contract after the consumer has agreed to it, or terms which allow traders to charge disproportionate fees or be paid for work which has not yet been completed if the customer decides to cancel the contract. Such terms will not be considered automatically unfair, but if there is no apparent reason for them to be included then they likely will be.

Another change to the law means that if a contract dispute ends up before a court, the terms of the contract will be assessed to see if they are fair, even if neither party involved in the disagreement requested this or made a complaint about the fairness of the contract.

Essentially, the new rules will mean that fairness in contractual terms is even more vital than it is now.

Help with unsatisfactory goods and services

The right to get a refund for faulty goods has now been strengthened so that you can return the product up to 30 days from the time of purchase and get your money back. Second-hand goods purchased from a retailer are now also covered under the same laws as new items.

As well as this, you now have specific statutory rights which set out what you’re entitled to if a trader fails to hold up their side of a contract. For example, if they fail to complete work within the amount of time you’d agreed upon, you are legally entitled to pay less for the service; or, if they did not carry out a service to the expected level of skill, you can ask them to do it over or pay less for the service.

You’re still allowed to make a different type of claim – if, for example, you lost money as a result of their failure to finish on time, you can claim damages from them – but the remedies help consumers to know exactly what they can expect if they are let down by a trader.

Protection against misleading statements

Previously, if you were persuaded to enter into a contract (for example, buy something or pay for a service) by misleading information provided by a trader, you would have had to make a misrepresentation claim to get things set right.

Under the Consumer Rights Act, however, any false statements made by a trader that their customer relies upon when deciding whether to buy from them will become part of the contract between you. This means that you will be able to make a breach of contract claim against them instead.

It may all sound very complicated, but the result is that it is now easier to make a claim against someone who misled you into buying a product or service, and the compensation you receive will likely be more in line with the losses you’ve suffered as a result.

Regulations for digital goods

In line with our modern age, the Consumer Rights Act brings consumer protection when buying digital goods generally in line with that of physical goods. Purely digital content must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described.

Particularly with these new regulations, being an informed consumer is vital nowadays - if you want to make sure you know your rights, take a look at our goods and services section.

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