The Customer is King

  • November 09, 2015
  • By Hunters Law

On 01 October 2015, most parts of the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force, marking the most extensive reform of UK consumer law in decades.  Our consumer protection law had become rather fragmented and a little dated for the electronic age.  The Act simplifies, consolidates and modernises the law in this area and must therefore be welcome.  It heralds enhanced consumer remedies for defective goods and shoddy services, creates new law protecting those who like to consume digital content, and aims to make life more difficult for businesses who attempt to slip unfair terms into their contracts.  Here are a few of the highlights.

Digital Content

The Act for the first time specifically protects consumers who buy faulty digital or streamed content such as e-books, online films, games and music downloads.  There is no automatic right to reject a faulty download because there is no way to return the digital content but consumers now have a legal right to a repair or replacement, or to a reduction in the purchase price (up to the full price paid).  Interestingly, a consumer will also now have certain remedies where digital content provided under a contract causes damage to a device or other digital content belonging to the consumer because, for example, the digital content introduced a virus.

Clear Time Frames for Faulty Goods

For defective goods, there is now a clear time limit of 30 days within which a consumer may return the product and get a full refund.  After the initial 30 days the consumer loses the automatic right to a refund but is given a choice between repair and replacement of the defective item.  Retailers are given just one shot at repairing or replacing the product, and if this is unsuccessful, the consumer can then either claim a full refund or receive a price reduction if he decides to keep the product.  These tiered remedies extend to hire and hire-purchase contracts.

Services Provided with Reasonable Care and Skill

Ever paid for a service delivered poorly or with unreasonable delay?  It is now an implied term in contracts for the supply of services that the service must be performed with reasonable care and skill.  If this term is breached, the consumer has a right to require a repeat performance.  Where this is not practical, or not carried out within a reasonable time, the consumer is then entitled to a price reduction.  Compensation can be claimed from the trader in some circumstances, for example, the costs of engaging a second trader to perform the service.

Unfair Contract Terms

Unfair contract clauses hidden in the small print of contracts or notices have always been a contentious issue for consumers.  Such clauses are subject to a “fairness test” and will be considered unenforceable if found to be unfair.

Additionally, disputes with businesses can now be resolved using Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures, such as mediation, enabling consumers to save time and money by enforcing their remedies without the need to go to court.

Let’s hope that consumers will now more clearly understand their rights and be able to enforce them with confidence. So far the good news; no for the bad news: enhanced consumer rights cost money.  Guess who will pay for those enhanced rights: the consumer.

This article was originally published in Discover Germany and can be found here.

Gregor Kleinknecht

Hunters incorporating May, May & Merrimans

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