Shoppers have been given extra rights by a new series of rules to bolster existing consumer protection.
In October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came in to force, making the law clearer and easier to understand so that you can shop with confidence.
UK consumers spend an eye-watering £90 billion a month, but figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) show shoppers encountered more than 18 million problems with consumer goods and services in the 12 months to the middle of last year, leaving them £4.15 billion out of pocket.
BIS said the new act will make it easier for consumers to know their rights and shop with confidence. The main new rules are outlined below.
A 30-day time period to return faulty goods and get a full refund
Previously consumers were only entitled to refunds for a "reasonable time" which meant that retailers were able to set their own rules.
While many stores played fair, others made returns difficult by setting unreasonable time limits. Some gave customers just seven days to return to the store.
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From now on, retailers must either repair or replace the goods – it’s up to you. Remember, these rules only cover goods and services that are faulty, not as described or not fit for purpose.
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The right to challenge unfair terms and conditions or those that are hidden in the small print
The price and any other charges for goods and services must be made crystal clear in any contract. If they are not displayed clearly and prominently and are deemed unfair, companies are not able to enforce them.
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New protection for people who buy digital content
Those who purchase e-books or online films and music now have legal protection for the first time. They are entitled to a replacement, if the downloads do not work - but not a refund.
They will also be better protected if a download infects a computer with a virus. The provider could be liable to pay compensation for getting the virus removed.
Your consumer questions answered
I took my cashmere jumper to a dry cleaner. When I picked it up, it had shrunk. I asked them to pay for a new one, but they only offered to refund the dry-cleaning cost. What can I do?
It may only be a receipt, but you have a contract. This is governed by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. ‘If the jumper has shrunk, the dry cleaner is in breach of its care and skill obligation. You are entitled to a full refund of the cost of the service,’ explains Helen Brown, partner at law firm Slater Heelis LLP in Sale. ‘If you cannot wear the jumper, you’ve suffered additional loss for which they must also compensate you. But they only need to give you the value of the item that was left with them, typically the second-hand value.’
Provide them with the receipt for the jumper if you have it. If not, find the cost of a similar new one to negotiate a reasonable figure. If they refuse to settle, contact the Textile Services Association via Dry Cleaning Advice or go to Citizens Advice.
By Hannah Jolliffe, consumer rights journalist
Clearer rights for consumers
A spokesman for the Department for Business Skills and Innovation said: “The changes will make it easier for consumers to know their rights and will relate to everything from buying a new toaster to getting your house decorated.
“For example, if a decorator is painting a room for a party, but when you inspect the work the day before it is due to be finished and conclude that it is not in line with the colour scheme you agreed with the decorator’s assistant. The decorator phones the assistant, who agrees that you did specify the colour scheme.
“You ask the trader to re-do the decorating. Due to the purpose of the service, the decorator would need to re-do the work before the party to have done so within a ‘reasonable time’.”
For more tips and hints on your consumer rights, read our handy articles and guides.
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