The Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 became law on 1 October 2015, replacing three major pieces of consumer legislation - the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. It was introduced to simplify, strengthen and modernise the law, giving you clearer shopping rights.
Product quality - what should you expect?
As with the Sale of Goods Act, under the Consumer Rights Act all products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
The rules also include digital content in this definition. So all products - whether physical or digital - must meet the following standards:
- Satisfactory quality Goods shouldn't be faulty or damaged when you receive them. You should ask what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory for the goods in question. For example, bargain-bucket products won’t be held to as high standards as luxury goods.
- Fit for purpose The goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.
- As described The goods supplied must match any description given to you, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.
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Who should you claim against?
If what you’ve bought doesn’t satisfy any one of the three criteria outlined above, you have a claim under the Consumer Rights Act.
If you've bought a faulty product, you can read our guide, which shows you what you should do and how to make a claim.
If you want to make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act, you have several possible ways of resolving your issue, depending on the circumstances and on how you want the retailer to remedy the situation.
Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act are against the retailer – the company that sold you the product – not the manufacturer, so you must take any claim to the retailer.
What you can claim depends on how much time has passed since you physically took ownership of the goods.
Read on to find out what your rights are in the first 30 days and beyond.
Your 30-day right to reject starts from the date you take ownership of the goods.
For example, if you purchased your goods in store and then took them away with you, your 30-day right to reject would start from that day.
But, if you ordered in store to have your goods delivered later or if you purchased your goods online, your 30-day right to reject would not start until your goods are delivered to you.
Bear in mind that if you nominated a safe place or neighbour and your order is left there, then this will be interpreted as the parcel having being delivered to you, and your 30-day right to reject will begin.
How long do you have to return a faulty product?
Under the Consumer Rights Act you have a legal right to reject goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, and get a full refund - as long as you do this quickly.
This right is limited to 30 days from the date you take ownership of your product. After 30 days, you will not be legally entitled to a full refund if your item develops a fault, although some sellers may offer you an extended refund period.
This right to a refund doesn't apply to products you've bought as downloads, though - such as music, games or apps.
You can, however, ask for a digital product to be repaired or replaced if it develops a fault. And if this isn't possible, or is unsuccessful, you have the right to receive a price reduction.
The 30-day period is shorter for perishable goods, and will be determined by how long it is reasonable to have expected the goods to last. For example, milk would be expected to last until its use-by date, as long as it’s stored correctly.
Repair or replace
If you are outside the 30-day right to reject, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital content which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.
You can state your preference, but the retailer can normally choose whichever would be cheapest or easier for it to do.
If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.
You're entitled to a full or partial refund instead of a repair or replacement if any of the following are true:
- the cost of the repair or replacement is disproportionate to the value of the goods or digital content
- a repair or replacement is impossible
- a repair or replacement would cause you significant inconvenience
- the repair would take an unreasonably long amount of time.
If a repair or replacement is not possible, or the attempt at repair fails, or the first replacement also turns out to be defective, you have a further right to receive a refund of up to 100% of the price you paid, or to reject the goods for a full refund.
If you don't want a refund and still want your product repaired or replaced, you have the right to request that the retailer makes further attempts at a repair or replacement.
Use our step-by-step guide if you want to ask a retailer to repair or replace something you've bought that subsequently develops a fault.
The first six months
If you discover the fault within the first six months of having the product, it is presumed to have been there since the time you took ownership of it - unless the retailer can prove otherwise.
During this time, it's up to the retailer to prove that the fault wasn't there when you bought it - it's not up to you to prove that it was.
If an attempt at repair or replacement has failed, you have the right to reject the goods for a full refund, or price reduction if you wish to keep the product.
The retailer can't make any deductions from your refund in the first six months following an unsuccessful attempt at repair or replacement.
The only exception to this rule is motor vehicles, where the retailer may make a reasonable reduction for the use you've already had of the vehicle after the first 30 days.
If you'd prefer to keep the goods in question, you can request an appropriate price reduction.
Six months or more
If a fault develops after the first six months, the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time you took ownership of it.
In practice, this may require some form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range.
Find out more about how to return a faulty item and claim a refund, repair or replacement from a retailer.
You have six years to take a claim to the small claims court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland.
This doesn't mean that a product has to last six years - just that you have this length of time in which to make a claim if a retailer refuses to repair or replace a faulty product.
Goods that have a digital element
For goods that have a digital element, such as a smart TV or digital content supplied in a physical form, you do have a 30-day right to reject it and get a refund.
This right applies if any part of the product, including the digital element - for example, the software on your smart TV - doesn't work properly or develops a fault.
The Consumer Rights Act defines digital content as ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form.’ Or in other words things like downloaded films, music, games and apps.
Just like goods, digital content must be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for a particular purpose
- as described by the seller.
If digital content does not conform to these criteria, you have the right to a repair or replacement of the digital content you've bought.
But if a repair or replacement isn't possible, or doesn’t fix the situation, you can ask for a price reduction. This can be up to 100% of the cost of the digital content.
The retailer will have to compensate you if any device or other digital content you own is damaged as a result of the faulty digital content you've downloaded.
This applies where that damage would not have occurred had ‘reasonable care and skill’ been exercised in the provision of the digital content - even if that content was provided free of charge.
Digital content covered
- Any digital content you have paid for - whether that’s with money, a gift card or credits
- Any free digital content supplied with goods, services or other digital content for which you pay a price. For example, an app you need to download onto your phone in order to watch a paid-for online streaming service
- Any free digital content that's supplied with goods, services or digital content that you've paid a price for. For example, a smart TV or any other product with digital content pre-installed.
The retailer is responsible for goods until they are in your physical possession, or in the possession of someone appointed by you to accept them.
This means that retailers are liable for the service provided by the couriers they employ - the delivery firm is not liable.
The retailer is responsible for the goods until they are delivered to you and in your possession, so you should complain to the retailer first if your online order hasn't arrived.
There is a default delivery period of 30 days, during which the retailer needs to deliver unless a longer period has been agreed.
If the retailer fails to deliver within the 30 days, or on the date that has been agreed, you can do the following:
- If your delivery is later than agreed and it was essential that it was delivered on time, then you have the right to terminate the purchase and get a full refund
- If the delivery isn’t time-essential but another reasonable delivery time can’t be agreed, you’re also within your right to cancel the order for a full refund.
Supply of a service
The term 'service' covers a wide variety of services including large and small-scale work you might have carried out in your home or elsewhere.
From a small repair job on a vehicle with no written details to the installation of solar panels, from a haircut to major building work, all these require you to enter into a contract.
Services can be provided alone or they may be provided with goods, for example, the fitting of a new kitchen.
What is a service?
Examples of services provided without goods include:
- dry cleaning
- work done by professionals such as solicitors, estate agents and accountants
- building work or home improvements (if you bought the materials and the builder used those).
Examples of services provided with goods include:
- repairs to goods where parts are replaced, eg car repairs
- fitted kitchens or bathrooms
- home improvements involving building and decorating work (if the builder supplied their own materials)
- double glazing
In all of the above examples, the service contract is governed by the Consumer Rights Act, which means you can use this as protection should anything go wrong.
The rules mean that all contracts for services must do the following:
- The trader must perform the service with reasonable care and skill.
- Information that is spoken or written is binding where the consumer relies on it.
- Where the price is not agreed beforehand, the service must be provided for a reasonable price.
- Unless a particular timescale for performing the service is set out or agreed, the service must be carried out in a reasonable time.
If the service you’re provided doesn’t satisfy these criteria, you’re entitled to the following remedies under the Consumer Rights Act:
- The trader should either redo the element of the service that's inadequate, or perform the whole service again at no extra cost to you, within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience.
- Or, in circumstances where the repeat performance is impossible, or can’t be done within a reasonable time or without causing significant inconvenience, you can claim a price reduction. Depending on how severe the failings are, this could be up to 100% of the cost, and the trader should refund you within 14 days of agreeing that you're entitled to a refund.
Supplying a travel service
If you pay to travel by train, coach or ferry after 1 October 2016, you’re buying a service, and it must be provided with reasonable care and skill.
If the service you’ve received falls way below the standard you’d expect, you might be entitled to claim a full or partial refund. You can also claim for consequential losses.
Unfair contract terms
Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act make it easier to challenge hidden fees and charges.
Unless a contract term is both prominent and transparent, it can be assessed for fairness. Find out more in our guide to challenging unfair terms in contracts.
Some examples of terms that may be unfair under the Consumer Rights Act include:
- fees and charges hidden in the small print
- something that tries to limit your legal rights
- disproportionate default charges
- excessive early termination charges.
If you think a contract term is unfair, you should complain to the trader.
If the trader doesn't agree, we recommend you seek legal advice before breaking the terms of the contract.
As a last resort, you could take the trader to court and the court will decide whether a term is unfair.
If the court decides that a term is unfair, you may be able to ignore the term or even cancel your contract without having to pay a cancellation fee.
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