The start of October has seen the implementation of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA), which dramatically simplifies and extends the obligations faced by businesses that provide goods and services to consumers in the UK.
The CRA is the biggest shake up of consumer rights law in decades and extends consumer protection to the sale of digital content as well as physical goods, and with the delivery of trade and professional services. It effectively replaces three established regimes, the Sale of Goods Act, the Supply of Goods and Services Act and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, which combined have defined consumer protection since the late 1970s.
Among the key new features of the CRA is the introduction of:
- digital content rights – the CRA extends consumer rights to specifically include digital content, defined as ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form’, that is paid for, supplied free with other paid for items, or digital content supplied on a physical medium, such as a DVD or CD. It also extends protection to any devices or other content that is damaged as a result of the digital content downloaded;
- 30-day right of refund, six-month fault presumption – a specific refund time frame now applies extending up to 30 days, during which a consumer may reject a faulty item and get a full refund, albeit with exceptions for digital content already downloaded. If a fault is detected within the first six months of delivery, it presumed to have been there from the time of delivery – unless the retailer can prove otherwise.
- ‘tiered’ remedy system – applicable to faulty goods, digital content and services, a consumer’s right to a refund is now more defined with reference to how long they have owned the product;
- failed repairs – if the consumer is outside the 30-day refund period, he must allow the retailer an attempt to repair or replace a faulty item or digital content, if this cannot be done or will be disproportionally expensive, the consumer is entitled to ask for a refund or price reduction;
- right of second repair or replacement – if the consumer doesn’t want a refund or price reduction, they have the right to request another repair or replacement at no extra cost;
- limited deductions from refunds – no deduction can be made from a refund within the first six months of purchase, the only major exception being in relation to motor vehicle sales, where a reasonable reduction may be made for the use already made of the vehicle;
- responsibility for delivery – the retailer is now responsible for the goods until they are validly delivered to the consumer, meaning that they are also responsible for the service provided by couriers they employ;
- provision of services protection – the CRA applies to both trade and professional services, which must be delivered with reasonable care and skill, delivered within a reasonable time and any terms upon which the consumer relies will be binding, non-compliance entitles the consumer to request the service be redone in whole or part, or where applicable a refund of up to 100% of the fees paid;
- unfair terms in consumer contracts – it is now easier for consumers to challenge hidden fees and charges on the grounds of unfairness, terms must be clear at the time the sale takes place;
- pre-contract information – if a retailer provides pre-contract information in relation to a service and the consumer takes this information into account, the service must comply with the information provided.
The CRA therefore extends the established implied consumer goods and services principles of ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘fitness for purpose’ and ‘as described’ to digital content, while also making it easier for consumers to request from a retailer a refund or replacement for any goods or services supplied.
In addition, the CRA gives consumers new rights to challenge key contractual terms, including relating to price, on the grounds of unfairness unless such terms are both prominent and transparent at the time the sales contract was made. Consumers are also now better able to rely on pre-contractual information or statements made that can be shown to have encouraged them to enter into the contract.
The CRA has only just come into force and so the ways in which the Courts will interpret it is yet to be seen, albeit the underlying principles are clearly towards ensuring greater consumer protection.
For businesses dealing with consumers the significance of the CRA is both the scale of the new obligations it imposes as well as the timeframes in which remedial measures must be taken. For many businesses ensuring compliance with the CRA will therefore require a revision of existing consumer contract terms and agreements.
For further information on the full extent of the CRA and how Moore Law can ensure your business is compliant, please contact in the first instance Tris Moore at [email protected]
The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.