Know your consumer rights when Christmas shopping – advice from Highland Council Trading Standards

The Highland Council’s Trading Standards team is urging shoppers to know their new consumer rights as the countdown to Christmas gets underway.  

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force from October 2015 and states that goods must:  

· be of a satisfactory quality

· be fit for a particular purpose

· match the description, sample or model. 

A consumer is entitled to demand a refund, replacement or free repair if any of these rights relating to goods have been breached.    However, what remedy is available to consumers will much depend on when the problem with the goods is discovered and then reported to the retailer or business who sold the goods.  

Here is a quick guide on consumer rights and remedies:   

Short-term right to reject goods – 30 days

Within 30 days of goods being bought and delivered a consumer can use a short term right to reject goods - if goods do not conform to the contract made (i.e. faulty, not as described and not fit for purpose)  

However, consumers should act promptly when a problem with the goods purchased has been discovered as any delay may impact on their right to a full refund.   The consumer must also prove that the defect was there at the time of delivery/purchase in order to claim a refund within 30 days. 

A refund must be given without undue delay and within 14 days of the trader or business agreeing that the consumer is entitled to a refund.  

Tip:  A consumer does not have a legal right to a refund or replacement when purchasing goods on the high street just because they have changed their minds. Some high street shops do offer a returns policy so consumer are advised to ask about this before purchasing goods. 

Medium term rights or Remedies – 30 days up to 6 months

If the defect with the goods is discovered within six months, it is assumed that the fault with the goods was there at the time of delivery unless the trader can prove otherwise (or unless it can be shown that the goods have developed a fault due to wear and tear or consumer misuse).  

A consumer can choose either a Repair or a Replacement

A consumer can limit the number of repairs or replacements to one.  This means that if the goods still do not conform to the contract, then the consumer does not have to allow the trader any further opportunities to repair or replace but can ask either to:  

- Keep the goods and ask for a price reduction

- Reject the goods and ask for a refund. 

Tip: Shoppers should keep their proof of purchase for all goods purchased safe (such as receipts; credit card or debit card statements etc) in case a dispute arises at a later date. 

Long term right to reject goods – 6 months up to 5 years (Scotland)

If more than six months have passed, the consumer has to prove the defect was there at the time of delivery.        Some defects do not become apparent until sometime after delivery, and in these cases it is enough to prove that there was an underlying or hidden defect at that time. 

Digital Content – New Consumer Rights

Consumers now have new rights under the above Act which cover an array of digital-format products such as: 

- virtual items purchased within computer games

- music

- television programmes

- films

- books

- computer software

- mobile phone apps

- systems software for operating goods - for example, domestic appliances, toys, motor vehicles, etc

A trader must have the right to supply the digital content to a consumer and if he does not, then a consumer is entitled to a refund.    Any digital content supplied with the goods must also be of satisfactory quality, fit for a particular purpose and as described.  

Tip: Consumers have no short term right to reject (30 days) if digital content does not confirm to the contract but may be able to claim for a free repair or replacement.   Ultimately if a repair or replacement is not suitable, a consumer may be able to demand a final right to reject and receive compensation. 

Shopping online or at home from a salesperson

Consumers can expect the same rights as shown above when buying goods when they shop online or via their television, in their home, in their workplace or from a mail order company.  Consumers also have the added right to return goods (in most cases) if they change their mind.   

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 say that within 14 days of receiving goods consumers can cancel their contract and receive a full refund.   

If cancellation information isn't provided, this could extend a consumers right to cancel from 14 days up to 12 months.  

Tip:  There are exceptions to these rights e.g. personalised or perishable goods so consumers should find out their rights before they buy. 

Small print?

Important terms and conditions must be made more prominent and not tucked away on website and/or paper copies of invoices delivery notes etc.  Consumers must be given clear information on terms and conditions before they agree to buy goods.  This is to ensure that the consumer knows what they are signing up to and can compare terms and conditions and shop around for the best deal without having to worry about hidden charges.  

Tip: Terms that impose: delivery charges or delivery restrictions and/or return policies must be explained clearly to the consumer.  If such information is unclear or missing then the consumer may have a right to compensation or a full refund.   

Citizens Advice Consumer Service has launched a new video for consumers to access which explains consumer rights.  This video can be accessed by going to:

https://vimeo.com/citizensadvicescotland/consumerservice

Consumers can also speak to an advisor from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service (frontline telephone consumer advice service) on 03454 04 05 06.  Highland consumers can also write or visit Highland Council Trading Standards Service, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF.  

For further information about consumer rights when buying goods and digital content products and information on how to resolve consumer disputes go to Highland Council Trading Standards newspage at: www.highland.gov.uk/tradingstandardsnews or follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HCTradingStandards

2 Dec 2015
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