Most of us have, at some time in our adult lives have experienced poor quality, suffered economic loss, been injured or generally felt aggrieved by the attitude of powerful retailers. You may choose to do nothing and learn from the experience, or you may decide to take action against the offending party by investigating your consumer rights and remedies.

Understanding your consumer rights is complex and at times confusing, but What Consumer is here to help, by showing you whether you have a valid complaint under UK law and what remedies you can rely on to put the situation right. There are several sections to this site:

  • Consumer Rights explains how various acts of UK legislation and European Regulations affect you. Among many others, you can find information on Sale of Goods, Supply of Services, Consumer Credit, Data Protection, Misdescription and Travel.
  • Consumer Guides contains more information on specific scenarios such as buying mobile phones, new homes, second hand cars, clothing and footwear. It also deals with thorny issues such as returning damaged or faulty goods, cooling off periods, dealing with dodgy tradesmen, buying online or making a small claim.
  • Consumer News keeps you updated on aspects of consumer news and how legislative changes affect you.
  • Consumer Forum: It goes without saying that you, the consumer, are a central feature of our site. As such we’d love you to share your views and experiences and offer advice on the forums to your fellow consumers.

Important points to understand

  1. In order to invoke your consumer rights under UK law you must be acting as a consumer – seems an obvious point, but you must be trying to acquire goods for personal use rather than business use.
  2. The first thing to be aware of is the difference between civil law and criminal law with regard to what has occurred. You may have been the subject of a civil wrong and only able to take action (sue) on your own initiative in order to have the matter put right to your satisfaction. This usually involves being awarded damages to compensate you for your losses. On the other hand, your complaint may be due to the organisation or supplier having committed a criminal offence, which is altogether much more serious and usually taken out of your hands by the enforcement authorities in the form of prosecution. Unlike civil action, criminal offences do not usually result in any benefit to you beyond the knowledge that whoever it was is now being punished. The majority of consumer law is civil law.
  3. Just because you are dealing with a large powerful retailer, it does not necessarily mean that they will always act in a lawful or an honourable way. This may be because the individual you are dealing with or the business as a whole is not aware of your consumer rights. In any event, arm yourself with a basic understanding of your consumer rights in order to get what you want and hold your own against unscrupulous or misinformed traders.
  4. A useful starting point in anyone’s general understanding of consumer rights is an understanding of the basic principles of contract law. Put simply this relates to whether a legally binding contract exists – because without one you are unlikely to succeed in any claim.
  5. Consumer legislation does not contain definitive descriptions or specific standards in terms of what you should expect. Instead it relies on concepts of ‘satisfactory’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘significant’ which can make it rather subjective. However, judgements will always be based on principles of reasonableness and proportionality in regard to whether you have a case and what you can expect in damages as a result.