Good News for the Consumer ?
The Consumer Rights Acts 2015 came into force on 1st October 2015 and replaced a considerable part of the Sale of Goods Act 1979. This new Act covers all purchases of goods and services including electronic data in digital form. It is important to stress that the legislation will not cover business transactions unless these can be shown to be wholly outside the individual’s trade business or profession.
Many of the established legal principles which have applied to the sale of goods over the years continue to apply under the new Act. Goods must be as described, fit for a particular purpose and of satisfactory quality. The definition of what meets “satisfactory quality” still involves “what any reasonable person might expect”. Interestingly, in relation to purchases on the internet, goods will require to match a sample or model as seen.
The statutory remedies where goods do not meet the above standards include providing the Consumer with a fixed 30 day period within which to reject faulty goods and insist upon a refund. Previously, this period was defined as “within a reasonable time”.
Additional, traditional, remedies of partial rejection and the right to repair or replacement or a price reduction are also now clearly set out and as with any problem goods, it is essential that the Consumer acts quickly and keeps proper records of communications with the Seller to ensure that there is no confusion on what is being said between the parties.
Whilst the new Act specifically excludes goods bought at a public auction, this should not prevent it from protecting purchases through internet auction sites such as Ebay since the individual purchaser is not personally attending a public auction.
Digital content, is also covered by the new Act. This includes items such as apps, music and video downloads, software, ebooks and downloaded computer games. This was an area not previously covered by legislation and whilst CDs and DVDs were classed as goods, digital downloads now have similar protection.
The right to a refund on digital data is not guaranteed but significantly, where the digital content has caused damage to the Consumer’s electronic devices, a remedy can be sought.
In addition, the Consumer can seek remedies for defective or sub-standard services provided to them. This does not cover contracts of employment, apprenticeship or gratuitous contracts. The Consumer’s rights are clearly set out and remedies of price reduction and repeat performance are available where services have not been valued at a reasonable price or within a reasonable time and where the Supplier has failed to exercise reasonable care and skill.
The Act also introduced some useful changes to unfair contract terms within Consumer Contracts. It has long been recognised that the Consumer was the weaker party in any such contract situation and the new Act gives a general definition on the rule of fairness.
Businesses who are selling to Consumers should consider their present practices, including descriptions, photographs and advertisements since inaccuracies may entitle the Consumer to reject the goods/services later.