If you’ve purchased a service or product and it has not provided what was expected by you, we may be able to help you to recover damages for your losses.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
Most consumer complaints will refer to the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This single piece of legislation replaced the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations, and al the Supply of Goods and Services Act.
The Consumer Rights Act covers both physical products and digital products.. All such products must meet the following standards:-
- Satisfactory quality - any goods shouldn't be damaged or faulty when you receive them.
- Fit for purpose - any goods should be fit for the purpose they are intended to be used for. This can cover the specific purpose they were designed for, or a specific purpose that you tell the supplier you intend to use them for and the supplier confirms their suitability for that purpose.
- As described - any goods provided to you shoud match the description given to you or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.
Who To Claim Against?
Under the Act your claim would be against the retailer, not against the manufacturer.
Physical goods -
Time Limits - Inside 30 Days
If the goods don't meet any of the three conditions above, you will be entitled to a full refund if less than 30 days have passed since you first received the goods.
Perishable goods -
the 30 day period doesn't apply to perishables. Instead they are expected to retain their quality for a reasonable time. This 'reasonable time' will vary depending on the good - for example, a loaf of bread will be expected to maintain its quality for a shorter time period than a house plant.
Digital downloads -
please note, if you have downloaded something and it doesn't meet any of the three conditions above, you can seek a replacement, repair or price reduction. In theory, the price reduction can be up to 100% of the value of the goods.
Time Limits - Outside 30 Days
If more than 30 days have passed since you received the goods, you must give the retailer one chance to repair or replace the goods or digital content. The retailer can usually choose which option it will proceed with.
If the repair or replacement isn't successful you can claim a full refund, or a price reduction if you want to keep the defective goods, or you can request that the retailer tries to repair or replace again.
You can demand a full refund if:-
- the cost of a repair or replacement is too much compared to the original goods value, or
- if a repair or repalcement isn't possible any more or isn't successful; or
- if a repair or replacement would be significantly inconvenient to you; or
- if the repair would take an unreasonably long time to perform.
Burden of Proof - the first 6 months
If you notice a fault wihtin 6 months of receiving the goods the law will assume that the fault was there when you received them unless the retailer can prove otherwise. This means that it is the retailer who must prove that the goods weren't faulty when you received them.
If a repair or replacement doesn't succeed, then you can seek a price reduction if you want to keep the faulty goods, or a full refund without any deductions. The only industry where a deduction can be made is the motor vehicle industry which allows for a reasonable deduction for the priod of use you have had.
Burden Of Proof - After 6 Months Or More
If you notice a fault after 6 months of receiving the goods the law will assume that the fault wasn't there when you received the goods unless you can prove otherwise. This means that it is you who must prove that the goods were faulty when you received them. You will need evidence to prove this, and possibly expert evidence.
The goods remain the responsibility of the retailer until you physically take control of them. This means that if the goods are damaged while being delivered by a courier, you would claim against the retailer not the courier company.
If the goods aren't delivered within 30 days of the order being placed, and you haven't agreed a longer delivery period with the retailer, you can seek a full refund.
Supply Of A Service
When a company supplies you with a service they are also caught by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. A 'service' can include anything from professional services supplied by solicitors, accountants, estate agents, to kitchen fitters, hairdressers, builders etc.
Any service which is provided to a consumer must:-
- be performed with reasonable care and skill
- abide by the rule that any information provided to the consumer - written or oral - will be binding if the consumer relies on it
- be provided for a reasonable price, unless a set price is agreed beforehand
- be carried out in a reasonable time, unless a set timeframe is agreed beforehand.
If a service doesn't meet any of the above conditions then you can seek to have the service provider redo the part of the service which wasn't adequate, or perform the entire service again, at no extra cost to you and without causing any signficant inconvenience to you.
If the service provider can't take the above steps for you, you can claim a price reduction of up to 100% of the original price. The value of the refund will be linked to the severity of the problem, and should be paid within 14 days of you reaching agreement on the refund.
Enforcing Your Rights
You have several routes to follow to seek to enforce your consumer rights:-
Court proceedings - You have 6 years from the date you are denied a solution by the retailer to issue court proceedings against them for a faulty goods claim.
Industry ombudsmen - many industries have Ombudsmen bodies which deal with customer complaints
Trading Standards - these have the power to censure retailers if they have behaved improperly
Industry regulatory bodies - certain professions or industries are tightly regulated. Examples include: SRA, FCA, ICAEW
Consumer or Industry Mediation Schemes - these schemes are free to the consumer and seek to resolve a dispute without formal court proceedings
Informal negotiations - you can explore this option directly with the retailer.
We will consider all information and advise you of what options you have, as well as what fees are likely to be incurred in pursuing your case. We will only begin work once you are entirely satisfied with all of the information we have provided.
Joseph Mulrooney is the solicitor who oversees this area of work.
You can find the full text of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 here