After many years of debate, the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 has finally come into force, replacing the previous Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations Act, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. The new legislation provides far greater protection to consumers by clarifying – in layman’s terms – their rights and remedies in the event of unsatisfactory purchases. If you’re not acquainted with the new laws, this article will take you through the fundamental changes.

Digital Rights

Under new legislation you will now have safeguards for digital media, such as films, video games, e-books, software and music. This includes media that comes free with other ‘paid for’ goods, and digital content that is supplied on physical mediums. In addition, if any download gives your computer, tablet or mobile device malware, the retailer must cover the costs of removal and repair. This is the first time any form of digital purchase has been given clear, enforceable legal protection.

Faulty Goods

The most important legislative change is the right to a no-quibble refund within 30 days of delivery if an item is faulty – this applies to both online and high-street purchases. Previously, the law simply stated that retailers must provide a refund if it was within a “reasonable amount of time” from the date of purchase. This gave them the leeway to bend the law in their favour, often providing as little as seven days.

The new law also provides long-term purchase coverage. After the 30 day period retailers are given one chance to fix faulty goods free of charge. If they fail, you may ask for a full refund or another repair. Cars are the only exception, as reasonable reductions must be taken into account due to wear-and-tear. If, after six months (or one year when considering guarantees), you encounter a problem, you must provide evidence to prove that the item was faulty on the date of delivery.

Making a Complaint

All products – digital or physical – must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described. Consumers are entitled to refunds and repairs at no expense for purchases that don’t meet the criteria, providing action is taken within the allotted time-frame. Claims under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 should always be made out to the retailer who sold the product, rather than the manufacturer.

It’s important to note that the new legislation only covers products that are faulty or deemed unfit for purpose. If the product in question is of satisfactory quality, retailers are not legally obliged to provide a refund, unless the product was purchased online. Mail order purchases can be returned within 14 days of delivery. Many retailers, however, provide longer time frames; therefore, it’s still worth checking the small print on mail order purchases if you want to return an item that exceeds this limit.

Fundamentally, the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 makes retailers easier to challenge if they try to enforce unfair terms, such as hidden fees and charges. While the new legislation has been in place since 1st October, problems are expected to occur, as a large number of customer service representatives will inevitably be unaware of the changes. Retailers are being encouraged to train staff immediately in order to prevent potential lawsuits.