The Consumer Rights Act 2015
Thursday, 1st October 2015
The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1st October 2015. The law is now clearer and easier to understand, meaning that consumers can buy and businesses can sell to them with confidence. On the rare occasions when problems arise, disputes can now be sorted out more quickly and cheaply. Alternative Dispute Resolution, for example through an Ombudsman, offers a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going through the Courts. The changes are relevant to all consumers and every business which sells directly to them.
What do I need to know?
The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1 October 2015 which meant from that date new consumer rights became law covering:
- what should happen when goods are faulty;
- what should happen when digital content is faulty;
- how services should match up to what has been agreed, and what should happen when they do not, or when they are not provided with reasonable care and skill;
- unfair terms in a contract;
- what happens when a business is acting in a way which isn’t competitive;
- written notice for routine inspections by public enforcers, such as Trading Standards; and
- greater flexibility for public enforcers, such as Trading Standards, to respond to breaches of consumer law, such as seeking redress for consumers who have suffered harm.
Most of these changes were important updates to existing laws. But two new areas of law were also introduced.
- For the first time rights on digital content have been set out in legislation. The Act gives consumers a clear right to the repair or replacement of faulty digital content, such as online film and games, music downloads and e-books. The law here had been unclear and this change has brought us up to date with how digital products have evolved.
- There are now also new, clear rules for what should happen if a service is not provided with reasonable care and skill or as agreed. For example, the business that provided the service must bring it into line with what was agreed with the customer or, if this is not practical, must give some money back.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stands alongside Regulations to create a greatly simplified body of consumer law. Taken together, they set out the basic rules which govern how consumers buy and businesses sell to them in the UK.
And, what about Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative Dispute Resolution is now available to all businesses to help when a dispute with a consumer cannot be settled directly. Before the Consumer Rights Act became law, this service had only been available in certain sectors. A business which is involved in a dispute will now need to make the consumer aware of a relevant certified Alternative Dispute Resolution provider. The business should also let the consumer know whether or not they are prepared to use the Alternative Dispute Resolution provider to deal with the dispute. However, a business does not have to use Alternative Dispute Resolution unless it operates in a sector where existing legislation makes it mandatory (for example, financial services).
What should I do?
The new laws mean you should be able to learn much more easily what your rights entitle you to and what they don’t. You should bear in mind your rights when you research purchases and when you decide between providers. You should be clear where to go for more information in advance of a purchase and what to do if a problem arises.
Citizens Advice is now the primary source of information and advice on these new laws for consumers through its Consumer Service. You can call our consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or you can talk to a Welsh-speaking adviser on 03454 04 05 05. The helplines are open Monday to Friday 9.00am to5.00pm. They are not open on bank holidays. Alternatively you can e-mail us your consumer inquiry using the form on our website.