What Are The Basics Of Consumer Protection Law?

by | Jul 19, 2022

Created in 2015, the Consumer Rights Act was created to protect consumers and form clear guidelines, making it simpler to resolve disputes. Since its implementation, the Consumer Rights Act has been updated and strengthened to accommodate increased online retail consumption and provide further clarity on customer rights. Yet, as with a lot of legislation, the Consumer Rights Act can make for time-consuming reading. So, we have deciphered the legal jargon so we can share with you the basics of consumer protection law.

How Does The Consumer Rights Act Protect Consumers?

Consumer protection law provides instruction for what should happen when goods are faulty or services provided do not meet expectations as set by the service provider.

Whilst retailers may set their own terms and conditions, the Consumer Rights Act will supersede this in cases whereby the terms and conditions are deemed unreasonable.

The consumer protection act has also been updated to include digital downloads. This means that the same consumer rights can be applied to software, music or other digital downloads. Except that, in the case of a faulty download, the distributor may offer the option to download the product again, rather than needing to legally provide a refund.

Consumer Protection For Quality Of Goods

Quality can mean different things to different people. However, under consumer protection law products must meet three requirements to be considered satisfactory.

  • They must not be faulty or damaged
  • They must be ‘fit for purpose’. That is, they must fulfil the role they are intended for
  • Products should also be supplied as described, whether on the consumer’s website, on the packaging or in advertisements

This enables distributors to sell second-hand goods, so long as they are advertised as such and their condition is described accurately. Durability is also a factor in assessing whether the quality of an item is reasonable. This often relates directly to the cost of the item. Lower-priced items are not expected to be durable whereas more high-cost items should be expected to last longer. If a product becomes faulty or stops working before deemed reasonable then a customer may have the right to a refund or replacement.

Product Delivery Rights

The Consumer Rights Act also defines how satisfactory delivery of products is measured. The law instructs that goods must be delivered within 30 days of being ordered unless agreed otherwise. Retailers may, and usually do, specify a date by which goods will be received. If products fail to arrive by this date, the buyer is entitled to a full refund should they wish to cancel their order.

Delivery costs should also be refunded if an order is agreed to be faulty.

Couriers are rarely legally responsible for late delivery of goods because the retailer is responsible for items until they are received by the customer. However, once goods have been received, including if they have been received by someone the customer has appointed or left in a safe place (as instructed by the customer), then delivery is considered completed.

Consumer Returns Legal Guidelines

Return rights differ depending on how much time has passed since receiving a product. If a consumer is dissatisfied with a product they usually must make a return within 30 days of purchase, or within 30 days of receiving the item from the distributor. The item may only be returned and a full refund issued if it fails to meet quality standards as specified in consumer law. However, some brands, particularly online retailers, promise refunds on returns up to 30 days with no need for an explanation, so long as they are returned in the condition they were sent in.

After 30 days consumer rights decrease. Customers are not legally entitled to a full refund after 30 days of purchase have passed. However, you may request a replacement if an item is faulty or becomes unusable within a time period that would be considered unreasonable considering the cost of the product.

Supply Of Service In Consumer Protection Law

Consumer protection law also protects consumers purchasing services, including services provided online, such as online courses, as well as in-person services such as beauty treatments or car MOTS. Under consumer protection law, services must meet four requirements to be considered satisfactory.

  • Services should be carried out with care and skill
  • Services should meet specifications as laid out in written and/or verbal communications
  • Cost of service invoiced following delivery and without prior agreement should be considered reasonable
  • The time scale relating to delivery and completion of service should be reasonable

If the stipulations have not been carried out as above then the consumer may be entitled to a partial or total refund. First though, the service provider will be obligated to complete or redeliver the service to meet reasonable expectations, if possible. When the service cannot be delivered to these standards or redelivery is not possible within the required timeframes, a discount for the delivered service should be applied. Refunds should be received by the customer within 14 days of the agreement.

Why Is Consumer Protection Law Important?

Consumer protection laws are increasingly important as buying moves online and products cannot be seen and inspected prior to purchase. It also means customers are protected from late delivery meaning the retailer has a responsibility to ensure that items arrive on time.

However, consumer protection laws are important for businesses too. Following these stipulations creates clear guidelines for how businesses need to operate. It protects you from disputes and potentially costly legal action.

When consumers and retailers know what to expect and have guidelines for what is fair and reasonable then it makes it easier to achieve customer satisfaction and receive good reviews and recommendations for products or services.

What To Do If A Retailer Breaches The Consumer Rights Act

If a consumer does not believe an item or service meets the quality standards or delivery stipulations then they have a right to reject the item or service and request a refund. If a refund is refused or not issued within the stated timeframe (as laid out in the consumer rights act) then the consumer may be required to take legal action.

Disputes are always best solved between the consumer and retailer/service provider where possible. However, if parties disagree or communication breaks down then the consumer may contact a number of organisations for assistance. This includes Citizens Advice or local trading standard officers. Support in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be found at gov.uk.

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The above is intended as guidance only and does not substitute legal advice. If you need assistance on such issues LegalDrop makes it super simple to get the right legal help. Here’s how it works.

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