Ever purchased a pair of trousers only to have a button fail as you run for the tube and then spent the next few hours trying to discretely hold the garment together?

Ever bought a tablet for your child, only to find it won’t switch on after a few weeks?

What can you do if you are caught in a situation like the scenarios above? Most of us enjoy only a sketchy knowledge of consumer rights law and where we stand. There is much for us all to learn. For example, did you know that in order to exchange goods, a receipt is not always required or that goods brought online can be returned within 14 days for no other reason than you have simply changed your mind.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the Act) profoundly changed the rights of shoppers in the UK. It consolidated the existing legislation and also outlined the rights for consumers who buy goods online, purchase digital content and engage professional services.

In this article, I answer some of the most common questions I get asked by clients regarding their legal rights as a consumer. This guide focuses on the rights regarding goods and services purchased after 1st October 2015, when the Act came into force.

When must a shop refund or replace an item?

Retailers have a duty to supply goods that are fit for purpose. A good analogy to remember is SAD FART. Goods must be of Satisfactory quality, As Described and Fit for purpose And last a Reasonable length of Time.

These standards apply even if the item was bought in a sale.

How is ‘satisfactory quality’ defined?

For an item to be of ‘satisfactory quality’ it must conform to what a ‘reasonable person’ would be happy with, given the price paid and the description given. The term ‘reasonable person’ has kept lawyers in work for centuries, but the courts usually allow common sense to prevail. The courts look at how long that type of item would normally be expected to work without breaking down. Any item that breaks or ceases to work after a few weeks or even months of normal use cannot normally be classed as ‘satisfactory quality’.

Is it true I can get a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015?

Yes, in most cases you will be entitled to a full refund for a faulty good if you return it within 30 days. If you wait longer than 30 days, the retailer can choose to either repair or replace the item.

You will be entitled to a refund if the repair fails to work or the retailer cannot replace the item.

As long as the item is returned to the retailer within six months, the onus is on them to prove the goods weren’t faulty when you purchased them. After six months, you must prove the goods did not meet the SAD FART standard and you must make your claim within six years of making the purchase (Limitation Act 1980).

Can the retailer insist I complain to the manufacturer?

No, under consumer law, the contract of sale and purchase is between you and the retailer; therefore, they must rectify any fault. It is for the retailer to contact the manufacturer if required, not you.

Do I have to have a receipt?

A receipt is not required; however, you must show some proof of purchase, such as a cheque stub or bank statement. If you are purchasing something valued at over £100, consider paying by credit card. Not only will you have a ready proof of purchase, under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 your credit card company is jointly liable with the retailer if something is wrong with the product.

Can I return an item of clothing I brought online if it does not suit me?

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 you have a 14 day window from the date you receive the goods in which you can return them for any reason and receive a full refund. Once the order is cancelled, you have a further 14 days to send the goods back.

Services and digital content purchased online can be cancelled 14 days after they were ordered. If you have already started to use the service, you can still get a refund but the amount you have used may be deducted from what you have paid.

Will the online retailer pay for the return of the goods?

Yes, the retailer should include payment for the least expensive delivery option for return of the item.

How should I complain if I receive shoddy service?

If you have purchased a service from a business, you have the right to expect that the service will be carried out with reasonable care and skill, on time and at a reasonable price.

When making a complaint it is unacceptable to shout, scream and abuse the poor person who happens to be manning the customer service desk that day. Not only are you not likely to get a favourable result, you risk breaking the law and in worse case scenarios, being arrested.

Make sure you are calm before you make a phone call, write an email or go in person to complain.

Decide the outcome you want, be it:

  • A full refund
  • The item replaced
  • To continue the service or keep receiving the digital content
  • Compensation for your trouble

What do I do if the retailer or service provider refuses to help me?

If the retailer or service provider will not help you then there are a number of options available including:

  • Relying on a manufacturers guarantee – guarantees can be used in conjunction with your legal rights under the Act. Guarantees usually provide the right of a repair or replacement within a fixed period, i.e. 24 months
  • Complain to the Ombudsman – many industries including banking and health services provide access to a free Ombudsman who can investigate your complaint
  • Seek legal advice and take the retailer or service provider to court. You can bring a claim in the county court or even online.

In Summary

We are fortunate in the UK to enjoy strong consumer rights protection. If you are having trouble obtaining a refund, replacement or repair from a retailer or service provider, an experienced consumer law solicitor will be able to help.

Saracens Solicitors is a multi-service law firm based in London’s West End. We have dedicated and highly experienced commercial law specialists who can assist you with any questions you have regarding your rights as a consumer. For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.