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Consumer Rights Bill : Clearing the shade?

View profile for Catriona Wheeler
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New Consumer Law provisions to save UK businesses millions?

Individuals purchase faulty products every day and it tends to be the case for many that the more persistent you are with a retailer the more you will receive back from them in regards to a refund or repair. All retailers have different policies and understandably this can be frustrating for individuals.

Over the years legislation on the area of consumer law has increased, with thanks in one part to the EU. The law in this area is so convoluted and lacks really any degree of certainty that many individuals are not fully sure where they stand when a problem arises and traders with no knowledge can find themselves in breach of existing law. It is to be hoped that some of the shade that covers consumer law will be cleared next year if the draft legislation published last month is approved by parliament later this year.

This piece of legislation will not only consolidate much of the consumer law relating to individuals, but will also modernise the law, bringing it into the digital age. We still rely on laws which were created in the 1970’s and the vast jump in technology in the last decade, requires laws in place to keep pace.

Some of the provisions which will be added or changed include:

Statutory rights which will be in every contract between traders and consumers. Restrictions will be in place to prevent suppliers from contracting out of these certain basic statutory rights – Replacing aspects of the Sale of Goods Act and Unfair Terms Act.

The right to a full refund if customers return faulty goods within 30 days – Consumers currently can reject goods as faulty within a “reasonable period”, which has been interpreted by some businesses to be 14 days and others up to two months.

No reduction of refund for use of faulty goods in the first six months after purchase(unless there is a proven second hand value) – Traders would normally offer a partial reduction if the product has been with a consumer for a while, however this will no longer be the case

Creating a right to a repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as film and music downloads, online games and e-books

Compensation for damage to consumer property which was caused by digital content

 

The changes should benefit businesses, as clarity in consumer rights should reduce the time spent on working out legal obligations. Forecasters are predicting that it could actually save businesses in the UK millions of pounds in costs. In addition, Trading Standard officers will be required to give “reasonable notice” of routine inspections.

Reports suggest that the bill will become law next year with very few alterations and with talk on the concept of naming and shaming businesses in contravention of consumer laws gaining support businesses should be wary. Traders should make sure that their terms and conditions and their complaints procedures fall in line with the proposals.

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