Consumer Law in the UK

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Health Assured team

13 February 2023

Consumer Law applies to the purchase of products or services in person and online. This area of law gives you rights and protection against faulty items or services. Understanding your rights can ease some of the unwanted stress when a product is faulty or doesn’t meet your expectations. Consumer protection is a selection of laws that protect individual consumers against unfair selling practices for goods, services, and digital content. Consumer law provides protection to the consumer against issues like fraud or mis-selling when they purchase a product or service.

In England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is the governing legislation which protects consumers. Any product or service, physical or digital, bought online or in store must meet the following standards:

  1. Satisfactory quality – your goods or service shouldn’t be faulty or damaged, and of at least satisfactory quality.
  2. Fit for purpose – you should be able to use the goods it for the purpose they were supplied for.
  3. As described – your goods or service must match the description, model or sample shown when you bought it.

Step by step guide to dealing with consumer issues

  1. Raise with the organisation – Concerns can often be resolved by liaising with the organisation that sold you the product or service. However, where an amicable resolution you can raise a complaint.
  2. Follow the internal complaints process – You must allow the provider an opportunity to respond to the complaint and try and fix any issues. It can be useful to request a copy of the complaints process for the organisation, however registering a complaint can be as simple as writing an email or a letter detailing what your issue is regarding and suggesting an informal resolution. This may include for example a refund, repair or replacement on an item or service.
  3. Independent arbitration and mediation services - The consumer or the organisation may want to refer the matter to an independent arbitration or mediation service, which can impartially assist both parties to negotiate a settlement outside of the courts.
  4. Trading standards - If the organisation has acted unfairly or illegally, you could look to report this to your local Trading Standards Officers who may investigate your complaint and potentially take legal action to prevent the organisation from continuing to operate. This can include situations where you have been scammed, something has been falsely advertised, you are sold a dangerous product, or even where you have been pressured into buying something you did not want to buy.
  5. The Consumer Ombudsman - An ombudsman is an independent organisation that can investigate and help resolve complaints with a provider. It is a free service to consumers and if the consumer accepts the decision of the ombudsman, it then becomes binding on the organisation that the consumer has complained about.

The ombudsman requires the consumer to have raised the complaint with the provider eight weeks prior to contacting the ombudsman. There is however an exception where the organisation presents the consumer with a deadlock letter stating they cannot resolve the complaint which will allow you to take this to the ombudsman earlier.

  1. Small claims - If the above avenues have not provided the consumer with a satisfactory resolution, you could look to take the organisation to a small claims court where the claim is less than £10,000. An application can be made online or via post. Depending on how much is being claimed, the applicant would incur a fee in making the initial application and may also claim interest on the amount owed.

To make a small claims, you can follow the below links:

In the Republic of Ireland, The Consumer Rights Act 2022 regulates consumer rights. When you buy products, services or digital content or services they must be in conformity with the contract. In conformity means the product or service is as you expect it would be according to the to the contract you made with the seller. To be in conformity, the products must meet certain conditions of quality, performance, and durability.

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