Know your consumer rights

Published by on 21 June 2010.
Last updated on 24 August 2011

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Government consumer rights body Consumer Direct had over 1.5 million calls and emails last year from people who felt they'd been treated unfairly when they bought goods or a service. 

Knowing your rights will help to reduce your chances of being ripped off. And thankfully, the financial services industry is one area where there are strict rules in place to protect you.

Rules dictate everything from how the product is advertised and presented through to a cooling-off period after the sale.

Credit cards

Credit cards are a good example of this. Product literature must contain a summary box that includes important details such as the APR and any fees or default charges. This information makes it easier to compare products.

You should also be sent a written credit agreement stating your rights to pay off the debt early as well as the cancellation policy.

Similar rules are in place for other products such as mortgages and loans and, whenever you buy any financial product, you'll be given a key facts document explaining its aims and risks.


When buying a house, estate agents should also ensure their description of the property is as accurate as possible.

Also check that your estate agent is registered with an OFT-approved estate agent redress scheme, such as the Ombudsman of Estate Agents. 

Your right to cancel

Cooling-off periods are in place to give you piece of mind, if a product isn't suiting your needs you can get your money back. The length of time you have varies, depending on the type of product.

For instance, with any insurance policy you'll have 14 days after you take out the policy to cancel it if you decide it isn't right for you credit cards have the same cooling-off period.

You'll get a seven-day cooling-off period for anything you buy online or over the  telephone as well as items over £35 you buy on your doorstep.

Make a complaint

If you do find a product or service lacking, you can complain about it.

First you should speak to the company that sold the product, and after a certain amount of time, usually four weeks, if you still have no joy, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service or relevant watchdog to assess your case for you.

Whether it's your personal loan, car or your fridge freezer, if you've got a problem, keep a record of what happened and any conversations you have with the company. This will support your case if you do need to take your complaint to a higher level.

Faulty goods

Being a savvy personal finance consumer can often help in other areas too. With mobile phones you have similar rights as you would with other purchases.

If the phone is faulty and you have only had it a few weeks you would be entitled to a refund or a repair if it's only a minor fault. After this time, depending on the fault, you will probably still be entitled to a repair or replacement.

As far as the service agreement goes, you have seven days to cancel the contract if you decide it's not right for you. After this, your rights protect you if the service is faulty but not if you change your mind or find a better deal. 

The Sale of Goods Act also protects you against being sold inferior goods. Under this law, all products should be sold to you 'as described', 'fit for purpose' and 'of satisfactory quality'.

In these circumstances you won't need a receipt but will be expected to return the item within a reasonable timeframe.

Complaint watchdogs

Consumer Direct: 08455 040 506
Trading Standards Services:
Advertising Standards Agency: 020 7492 2222
Ofcom: 0330 123 3333
Financial Ombudsman Service:  08000 234 567
Ofwat: 0121 644 7500

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