Consumer rights: Shopping, returns and credit

Most people typically do the most shopping in the lead-up to Christmas, and it is important to know your rights as a consumer. Shoppers have been given greater protection since the introduction of The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on 1st October 2015, replacing three major pieces of consumer legislation - the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

IN-STORE

Faulty items Generally stores will have their own returns policy whereby they may accept non-faulty goods for a refund or exchange. However, under The Consumer Rights Act 2015, if there is something wrong with the item consumers have the statutory right to return an item and have it refunded or replaced. This Act gives consumers the entitlement to a full refund if the faulty item is returned within 30 days. After the 30 day period has expired, consumers will have to allow the retailer the opportunity to repair or replace the item. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides protection to consumers as items bought must be:
  • Satisfactory quality The items bought should not be faulty or damaged.
  • Fit for purpose The items should be fit for the purpose they are supplied.
  • As described The items bought must match any description given at the time of purchase.
If the fault is discovered within the first six months it is presumed to have been there from the time of purchase. Therefore it is for the retailer to prove that this is not the case. However, six months after purchasing a product the onus is on the consumer to prove a fault was present at the time of purchase in order to claim a repair or replacement from a retailer. Change of mind Consumers do not have an automatic right to get a refund, repair or replacement if they have changed their mind about an item and there’s nothing wrong with it. This will be dependent upon the retailers own returns policy which is normally detailed on the back of a receipt or on their website. Proof of purchase In order to obtain a refund, repair, or replacement, proof of purchase is necessary – preferably a receipt. However, many retailers will accept bank or credit card statements as proof of purchase. Complaint to manufacturer Consumers do not have to complain to the manufacturer. The retailer has to sort out any problems as the retailer is the service provider, not the manufacturer.

SHOPPING ONLINE, OVER THE PHONE OR BY MAIL ORDER

Cooling off period The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 came into force in June 2014, and applies to all purchases made either online, over the phone or by mail order. These regulations state that when shopping online, over the phone or by mail order consumers are automatically entitled to a 14-day ‘cooling-off period' when the item has not been seen in person with the exception of bespoke/personalised items. The ‘cooling-off period’ enables consumers to receive a full refund even if there is nothing wrong with the item and there is simply a change of mind. The Consumer Contracts Regulations assert that the cooling-off period starts as soon as the item is received, and that consumers are able to cancel an order in writing, by fax or by email. Ordered item not arrived? Under The Consumer Rights Act 2015, it is a seller’s legal responsibility to ensure an item is delivered to a consumer within a reasonable time or by an agreed date. Failure to deliver within a reasonable time and outside of the agreed deadline is considered to be a breach of contract. Therefore, the consumer should write to the seller requesting the item be delivered again. If an item is not received by an agreed date or within 30 days of buying it then a shopper may ask for a refund. Making a formal complaint If a consumer is unhappy with what the retailer offers, a formal complaint can be made using the retailer’s internal complaints procedure. If there is no complaints procedure, then the consumer should make the complaint in writing. If the consumer is unhappy with the result of the formal complaint, the consumer could then use an alternative dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disagreements without going to court with the help of a third party mediator, such as using a consumer ombudsman. Items purchased by credit card If an item is purchased by credit card there is additional protection for consumers under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This states that for purchases where a single item or service costs between £100 and £30,000 and the retailer breaches the contract, credit card providers are jointly liable with the retailer to refund the paid amount. Chargeback scheme For items less than £100 that cannot be covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, consumers can use a chargebank scheme which is offered by some banks and card providers. Banks and credit card companies are not legally required to offer a chargeback scheme but most do. A chargeback scheme is where a transaction is reversed and refunded if something is wrong with an item. To find out more call: 0844 8922 493 Alternatively, you can email: counsellingadvice@healthassured.co.uk Or visit: www.healthassured.org

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