Consumer Rights: new Act brings clarity for businesses, as well as responsibilities
Relevant for all businesses selling to consumers, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 went live on October 1st. This replaces several laws including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
The Act aims to make consumer rights easier for all parties concerned in an era when online trading has brought huge changes to the commercial environment.
For consumers it should mean that getting a refund or repair, dealing with issues with faulty digital downloads and understanding contracts are all much simpler. For businesses, it makes ensuring staff are aware of the changes a top priority. Helpfully, a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) ‘plain English’ summary cuts through the complexity, read more here.
One important change for businesses concerns price fixing. Previously, the law was framed on an ‘opt in’ basis that made is so hard for consumers to bring a class action that only one case from 2008 against JJB Sports ever succeeded. But under the new Act, all consumers affected by alleged price fixing are now ‘opted in’ to the class action – ultimately making businesses more vulnerable to larger claims.
Alongside a more streamlined process for settling claims approved by Competition Appeal Tribunal, the Act gives consumers the right to repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as online films and games, music downloads, and eBooks. It also clarifies a grey area by obliging businesses to offer a refund on all faulty goods within 30 days of purchase.
New rules state that if service providers do not carry out a service with reasonable care and skill, or as agreed with the consumer, they will have to put things right in line with what was agreed or refund some money. Taking care to avoid unfair ‘small print’ is another area that businesses must prioritise to avoid falling foul of consumer claims.