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New consumer laws for Christmas

publication date: Nov 30, 2013
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author/source: Dean Dunham

Dean DunhamWe are all being given a gift this year in the form of additional shopper’s rights to be wrapped up in a new Consumer Rights Act. This new act combines eight separate regulations and pieces of legislation and introduces various new protections for consumers. The aim of this new act is to make it easier for both consumers and businesses to fully understand consumer laws. In this respect the government says that it will:

Consumer confidence

  • clarify the standards a consumer can expect when they buy something
  • set out what to do when goods, services or digital content don’t meet those standards
  • set out what a seller must tell a consumer before they buy

Enforcement

  • simplify enforcement powers
  • make it easier to tackle rogue traders
  • make it easier for small businesses to take legal action against bigger companies breaking competition laws

The bill also makes it easier for people to get their money back:

  • when a seller isn’t truthful about their goods or services
  • when sellers use pressurised selling techniques

Whilst the new laws are a step in the right direction they do not go far enough to protect the consumer in today’s e-commerce society. However, here’s what you need to know about your new rights:

  • At present if you buy goods online (or from anywhere other than the retailers premises – such as at an exhibition or on your doorstep) you have seven days in which you can return the goods with no questions asked. This is known as the "Cooling off period" and is under a law known as the "Distant Selling Directive". Under the new laws this seven day period is increasing to 14.
  • Traders will have to provide you with details of "the main characteristics" of the goods and services being sold, contact information such as name and geographical address of the business and the total price of what is being sold, including extra fees and charges.
  • Traders will generally be expected to deliver goods to you within 30 days of an order being placed. You will be entitled to seek a refund if the trader does not deliver the goods during "an additional period of time appropriate to the circumstances".
  • If you return faulty goods for repair and the goods break again you will have new statutory rights to a refund.
  • Traders will be prohibited from introducing surcharges for payment methods, such as for using credit or debit cards, above what it costs them to deliver the means of payment.
  • If there is any extra payment required for a transaction to be completed traders must seek your express consent, failing which you will be entitled to a refund.
  • Services must be provided within a reasonable time, at a reasonable cost and with reasonable skill and care. You will also be able to require that inadequate work is redone.
  • For both goods and services you will be able to require price reductions if replacement goods or services are not appropriate (or need to be repeated).
  • If you buy electronic content (such as music, films, software etc) – you will be able to seek a refund if it is faulty.

These new laws are due to come into force by 13 December 2013; however there is no guarantee that this deadline will be met. In the meantime you should assume that your rights are as per the current consumer legislation.

For more information visit Dean’s legal and consumer website.