Your guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Published by Rachel Lacey on 02 October 2015.
Last updated on 25 September 2017

Whether you are shopping on the high street, splashing out online or paying for any form of goods or services, it’s important you are aware of your consumer rights.

The Consumer Rights Act came into force in 2015, replacing the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. In addition to bringing these three separate pieces of legislation into one new piece of law, the act includes new protections to reflect changes to the things that we buy and the ways that we shop.

The aim of these changes was to make it easier for consumers and retailers to understand the rights and when problems do arise they should be quicker and easier to resolve.

Protection for digital content

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers are protected for the first time when they buy digital content online such as music, games or e-books. If the item does not work, you have the same level of protection as you would if you had purchased the physical item. As such, if the item is faulty, you are entitled to a repair or replacement from the retailer you purchased it from.

Additionally, if the download gives your computer, tablet or smart phone a virus, the retailer will need to cover the costs of removing it.

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Your rights with faulty goods

There is nothing more frustrating than discovering something you have bought is damaged or doesn’t work, so the Consumer Rights Act 2015 also tightens up your rights with faulty items, making it easier to get a repair or replacement. This includes a 30-day time period in which shoppers are able to return faulty goods and still get a full refund. Previously the law said items needed to be returned within a ‘reasonable’ time period, which provided no clarity for shoppers or retailers. It also meant that as a consumer, the outcome of any complaint you made, often came down to the shop in question, with some invariably managing issues better than others.

After the 30-day period, retailers can either repair or replace the goods, but the consumer gets to choose which option. If the problem persists after the item has been repaired or replaced shoppers can request a refund, or a discount, if they still wish to keep the item. Alternatively, you can request a second repair or replacement for which you cannot be charged.

Any faults discovered within six months of delivery are regarded to have been there from the outset and it’s down to the retailer to prove otherwise – not you.  

Unfair contract terms

The terms of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 should also make it harder for retailers or service providers to bury charges and fees in small print. The key terms of a contract – which includes the price – can now be assessed for fairness unless they are ‘prominent’ or ‘transparent’. Other terms that would be deemed unfair are statements that restrict your legal rights or if charges for default or early termination of your contract are disproportionate.

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Taking your complaint to a retailer

Under the rules, any physical – or digital – items you buy need to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If they are not you are entitled to claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. However, it is important to note that if you are going to exercise your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you need to take your complaint to the retailer who sold you the product rather than the manufacturer.

It should also be stressed that these rules only cover goods and services that are faulty, not as described or not fit for purpose. While many retailers will offer you a refund if you change your mind and can provide proof of purchase, they are not obliged to. The exception here is if you purchased your goods online or by mail order in which case you have 14 days after you received them to decide whether you want to keep them. Many retailers provide a longer timeframe, so check the small print first.

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