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The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on 1 October that year. The act applies to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (with the exception of section 27).  It was introduced to consolidate the previous legislation, to help consumers better understand their rights.

Does the Consumer Rights Act apply to me?

The act can apply to any business-to-consumer contract that was formed after 1 October 2015. It does not apply to business-to-business contracts.

For contracts formed before 1 October 2015, you need to use the previous legislation governing this area, such as the Supply of Goods Act 1979, Sales of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.

Am I a consumer?

Under Section 2(3) of the Consumer Rights Act, a ‘consumer’ is defined as “an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business craft or profession.” You need to consider the capacity you were acting in when the contract in question was formed. If there is a dispute about whether you were a consumer, the burden is on the trader to prove that you were not a consumer. Second-hand goods that are sold at a public auction are expressly excluded from being covered by the act.

Who is a trader?

Under Section 2(2), a ‘trader’ is defined as: “a person who is acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader’s name in the trader’s behalf.” This can include government departments and public sector authorities.

Service contracts

What can I do if I’m unhappy with the standard of the service I’ve been given?

Under section 49(1) of the Consumer Rights Act, every contract to supply a service is to be treated as including a term that the trader must perform the service with reasonable care and skill. Whether a service has been completed with reasonable care and skill will be considered by the court on a case-by-case basis.  Generally, the level of care and skill expected is that of a reasonably competent business in the same profession as the trader. The trader cannot exclude their responsibility to perform the service in this way.

What remedies are available under the act for poor service?

There may be already be remedies incorporated into the contract that applies to the service you received. However, if there aren’t, then under the Consumer Rights Act, there are two stages of remedies for breaches of standards of service:

Stage 1: in the first instance, you can demand the service be carried out again at the trader’s expense. This must be done within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to you, as the consumer. If they can’t carry out the service for you again, or it can’t be completed without inconveniencing or it isn’t completed within a reasonable time, you can then move to stage 2.

Stage 2: You are now entitled to a price reduction up to a full refund.

What can I do if the service hasn’t been performed in line with the information provided about the service?

The same 2 stage remedy system, as set out above, is available to you.

What can I do if the service isn’t carried out within a reasonable time or it isn’t performed in line with the information provided about the trader?

In these circumstances you, are entitled to a reduction in the price that you paid for the services.

Purchasing goods

What are my rights if I buy faulty goods?

Section 9 of the act says that all goods supplied by a trader must be of satisfactory quality. Factors to be taken into account when considering the quality of goods includes:

  • State and condition;
  • Fitness for the purpose for which they have been supplied;
  • Appearance and finish;
  • Freedom from minor defects;
  • Safety and durability.

Goods are treated as being of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking into account the description of the goods, the price paid for them and all other relevant circumstances.

Therefore, a lower standard may be expected if you bought low-price or disposable goods, in comparison to the same goods that are of a higher price or advertised as being durable.

Note that goods will be treated of satisfactory quality if:

  • Any issue is specifically drawn to your attention before you entered into the contract;
  • You examined the goods before you entered into the contract and your examination ought to have revealed the issue;
  • A sample was provided to you and a reasonable examination of it ought to have revealed the issue.

What are my rights if my goods aren’t as they were described to me?

Under sections 11 and 13 of the Consumer Rights Act, traders must supply goods that match the description (and any sample they have given you) of the goods. If they did give you a sample, it is not enough just for the bulk of the goods match the sample, if they do not match the description too.

What remedies available to me if these implied terms have been breached?

The act gives you a short-term right to reject goods: you can claim a refund from the trader if what you bought does not conform with the contract and as long as you have not owned it for more than 30 days. However, this time may be shorter if you bought perishable goods.

Alternatively, you can insist on the trader repairing or replacing the goods within a reasonable time, unless it is impossible or disproportionate for them to do so. If the goods still do not match after they have been repaired or replaced, if repair or replacement is impossible or it has not been carried out within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to you, then you have a right to a reduction in the price or a final right to reject the goods.

The right to a reduction involves your keeping the goods and receiving a partial refund of the price you paid, to take into account the fact that the goods do not match the contract you entered into. The act requires traders to issue a refund within 14 days – and they cannot charge you a fee for doing this.

If you choose to exercise your final right to reject the goods instead, you must make this clear to the trader, who must then refund what you paid for the goods. However, the trader can take deductions from the refund, to take into account any use you had of the goods if you rejected the them after six months (or before this period if you are getting a refund for a vehicle). Again, the trader should not be charging you a fee for the refund.

If you have questions about any of the issues raised in this article or about  the Consumer Rights Acts in general, please contact Charlotte Woolway in the Civil Litigation team: [email protected]/0117 904 5804.