British consumers spend an estimated £90 billion a month. However, the purchase of goods and services can sometimes leave us feeling dissatisfied. For this reason, the updated Consumer Rights Act, which became law in October 2015, offers us full protection when we have a complaint. In this article we look at:
- Consumer rights in the UK
- Consumer rights when shopping online
- Who enforces the Consumer Rights Act?
What are my consumer rights in the UK?
The main concern of the 2015 Consumer Rights Act is that consumers should be able to buy in good faith and that retailers act with complete transparency. This transparency covers their description of goods as well as any unfair terms in contracts for the provision of services. It stipulates that goods and services should be:
- Of satisfactory quality,
- Fit for purpose,
- As described.
Your complaint isn’t with the manufacturer but with the retailer who sold it to you. The Act also outlines in detail what should happen if you change your mind (the cooling-off period), under which circumstances you can return goods and be entitled to a refund and/or replacement, and how any dispute with a retailer or service provider can be resolved. Some of these options are time-restrictive and your consumer rights depend on how long has elapsed since you took physical possession of the goods. In the case of internet orders, this refers to the date when the goods were delivered.
What are my consumer rights when shopping online?
Whether you buy from a store in the High Street or from the internet, your consumer rights are exactly the same. The main additional protection provided for consumers who shop online concerns the delivery date. Unless otherwise specified, goods ordered from the internet should arrive within 30 days.
The retailer is responsible until you take physical possession of the goods. In the case of non-delivery, a replacement must be sent completely free of charge. On arrival, if the goods have been damaged in transit and/or don’t look like their photo, then you can return them and receive a replacement or refund within 14 days. The online seller/marketplace has to cover the return shipping charges.
In case you change your mind, you usually have a 14-day cooling-off period and then a further 14 days to return the product.
If your complaint is unresolved, the European Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution came into effect in January 2016. However, it only covers goods and services purchased from companies based in EU member states.
Who enforces the Consumer Rights Act?
If you have a complaint, there are various bodies from whom you can seek redress without going to court. If your complaint concerns an issue like misleading advertising such as special offers, you should contact your local branch of Trading Standards.
Certain sectors have their own regulator and/or Ombudsman service to deal with complaints. For example, the Financial Ombudsman deals with disputes with financial service providers while Ofcom is responsible for telecommunications. Since 2015, retailers can choose to be members of a certified ADR (Alternative Business Resolution) scheme although participation is voluntary.