As with previous legislation, goods sold must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and match their description. If they don’t, consumers generally have a 30 day right to reject and seek a refund. If outside that period, the retailer must be given one opportunity to repair or replace before they consider a full or partial refund. Nothing particularly new there. However for the first time rights on digital content are included so that consumers have a clear right to the repair or replacement faulty digital content, such as films, games, music downloads and e-books. If a device is damaged due to defective content, then the business may be liable to pay compensation (and ipads don’t come cheap!).
If a fault is discovered within six months from purchase, it is presumed to have been there since the time of purchase – unless the retailer can prove otherwise. After that time, the burden of proving that the item was faulty lies with the consumer.
To reflect the internet shopping revolution, businesses that deliver goods (and not their couriers) will now be liable to the consumer if those goods are lost or damaged in transit, presenting an increased risk for internet based retailers.
Service providers such as hairdressers, dry cleaners (and even solicitors!) are also affected. There are now clear rules about what should happen if a service is not provided with reasonable care and skill, or as agreed. Information provided when the contract is made (written or spoken) will be binding if relied on by the consumer. If a price is not agreed beforehand, the service must be undertaken for a ‘reasonable’ price and within a ‘reasonable’ timeframe.
The Act also makes it easier for consumers to challenge ‘hidden’ fees and charges. The key terms of a contract including price can now be assessed for fairness unless they are both prominent and transparent.
What do the changes mean for businesses? It’s important to provide clear, accurate and realistic written information at the outset to avoid the business picking up the tab if things go wrong. While, in many ways, the new legislation is not substantially different, it’s a good time for businesses to review their contracts, practices and procedures so that disputes (and bad PR!) are avoided.
For more information, contact Julian Burrows, solicitor on (01752) 292387.