Consumer Rights Act 2015: A guide

The new Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on 1 October, 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 idea is that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 will be easier for consumers and retailers to understand and when problems do arise they should be quicker and easier to resolve.

Nick Boles, business minister, said: “Whether its downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the Consumer Rights Act makes it easier to understand your rights. UK consumers spend £90 billion a month and it is important they are able to shop with confidence.”

Protection for digital content

For the first time consumers will be protected when they buy digital content online such as music, games or e-books. If the item does not work, you now 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 mobile a virus, the retailer will need to cover the costs of removing it. This change comes in response to the surge of consumers buying entertainment in this way. According to figures from the government, shoppers spent more than £2.8 billion on downloaded music, videos and games in 2014 – an increase of 18% on the previous year.

Your rights with faulty goods

The new act also tightens up your rights when you’ve purchased an item that is faulty, making it easier to get a repair or replacement. This includes a new 30-day time period in which shoppers are able to return faulty goods and 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.

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 new rules should also make it harder for retailers or service providers to hide charges and fees in the small print. The key terms of 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.

Taking your complaint to a retailer

Under the new 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 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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Your Comments

If only this Act had been present when I bought a brand new Mini Metro in 1981 - what a load of rubbish!
I put up with it for 11 months and endless arguing with the dealer that it didn't steer straight. I eventually had a guy from the factory test it thinking I would finally gat it fixed but while he agreed that it didn't steer straight, he decided that it was acceptable!.......not to me it wasn't so I got rid of it and have bought Ford ever since.
I will be interested to see how the new Act applies to cars.

Will this new Act also apply to Internet Service Providers? For a year I had to put up with very slow speed (I've got Fibre, by the way) and could use the internet only when plugged into the router (no wifi). I wanted to leave the ISP, but was threatened with high cancellation fees. Eventually I was given a new BT modem which speeded the internet downloads (although at 'busy' times, e.g. late afternoons and weekends the internet still slows down). I wanted to cancel the service a day after I had been connected but was told that the 'cooling off' period' finished before I was connected. Will this new Act help?