You’ve had better consumer rights from October 1st 2015, with clearer rules on when you can take something back and get a refund if it’s faulty, and rules to stop you being fobbed off. Here’s what you need to know.
Faulty goods – know your consumer rights
If you buy something and it turns out to be faulty, you have 30 days in which to reject the goods and ask for your money back. Under the old rules you only had a ‘reasonable time’ to do this.
If you’ve bought something online or by mail order that’s faulty and you want a refund, you should get a refund of all the charges, including any postage you’ve paid.
SAVVY TIP: This right comes on top of the rights you already have to change your mind about something you’ve bought online (or by phone or mail order). If you buy online you get a cooling off period. This means you have 14 days from the day after the goods arrive to change your mind and ask for your money back. You may have to pay the return postage.
If you want a refund, you should get it within 14 days of the shop agreeing that you’re entitled to one.
Getting a repair or replacement instead of a refund
You don’t have to get a refund if you reject something that’s faulty within 30 days of buying it. You can have a repair or replacement if you prefer. Here there are new safeguards, designed to make sure you don’t get fobbed off with dodgy repairs or replacements that aren’t up to scratch.
If you bought a dishwasher and it developed a fault within 30 days and you wanted it repaired, the 30-day rejection time limit is ‘paused’. Once your dishwasher had been repaired, the 30-day time limit would restart (it actually restarts the day after your replacement is delivered or the original is repaired).
You then get the rest of the 30-day period (or seven days, if that’s longer) in which to keep or reject the repaired or replacement item.
SAVVY TIP: If you’ve bought something under a credit agreement such as hire purchase, the contract is cancelled if you reject something within the 30 days and ask for a refund.
Your rights after 30 days
If you buy something and it develops a fault after 30 days, you still have rights. In fact, if it develops a fault within the first six months, it’s down to the retailer to show that the fault wasn’t there when you bought it and not down to you to show it was there at the time of purchase.
SAVVY TIP: Your consumer rights last for up to six years in England and Wales and up to five years in Scotland. Depending on the item and how long it could be expected to last for, you may be able to make a complaint several years after you bought it.d
If the fault develops after 30 days, you don’t have the automatic right to demand a refund. Although the shop should offer you a repair or replacement, or a refund if that’s its preferred option.
SAVVY TIP: If the shop offers you your money back, it must give you back the full purchase price if you’ve had the item for less than six months. If the fault develops after six months, it can keep some of the purchase price to make up for the fact that you’ve had the use of the item. The only exception is if you buy a car, where you won’t get the full purchase price back if you get a refund.
New rules on repairs and replacements
From October 1st 2915 new rules were introduced to protect you against being fobbed off if a problem develops after 30 days and you opt for a repair or replacement. In that case the retailer or trader only has one chance to do a repair properly to to give you a like-for-like replacement and if the repair isn’t up to scratch you can ask for a refund or to keep the goods and get a price reduction.
If you buy something like a kitchen and arrange for it to be installed as part of the contract and it’s not been done properly, you can complain and get the work done properly, or get a partial or full refund.
Hiring v buying
These new rights apply to goods that you part exchange or buy under a hire purchase agreement, as well as goods you hire. You also get consumer rights if you get something free of charge as part of a package that you pay for.
So, for example, if you get a toaster free when you buy two kitchen appliances (but you’d normally have to pay for the toaster if you bought it on its own), you’d have the same rights if the toaster broke down as you would if you’d bought it.
SAVVY TIP: You wouldn’t get these rights if you got something free of charge that’s normally free – such as a trial version of some anti-virus software, for example.
The Consumer Rights Act also gives you explicit rights if you buy digital content. Anything you buy, whether that’s software, downloadable music, books or apps, should be of satisfactory quality, as described and ‘fit for purpose’ which means they should do the job they were designed to do.
SAVVY TIP: There’s an extra safeguard that may be useful if you’re not naturally techy, namely, that if you say that you want to use the digital content with a particular tablet, mobile phone or laptop, that then becomes part of the contract.
In some sectors, such as telecoms and financial services, traders must sign up to an ‘alternative dispute resolution scheme’ – such as an ombudsman scheme. I others, they don’t have to do this by law, but there had to be an alternative dispute resolution scheme available for them to join. This requirement came into force on July 9th 2015.
From October 1st 2015 all traders have had to tell consumers that they can use an alternative dispute resolution scheme and whether the trader has signed up to it. It may count against the trader if they don’t.
There are ombudsman schemes covering everything from financial services and energy to furniture and retail.
SAVVY TIP: You can find out about ombudsman schemes at the Ombudsman Association’s website.
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