Consumer Protection Law Overview

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As many of you will no doubt have seen from the news headlines, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on 01 October 2015.

Much of the act has simply replaced and tidied up existing law such as the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. Of particular note however are the changes which reflect how we now shop and how digital content is dealt with.

A growing percentage of music, film and literature is now bought in digital format with no physical disk and a rapidly increasing number of us now regularly pay for content which is “streamed” meaning that we don’t even retain a copy of the content on our computer, tablet or phone.

One of the important changes now means that consumers will have the same level of protection when they buy online content as they do had they bought the real thing. This is an area of law where there was considerable uncertainty before and hopefully this clarification will mean that disputes will be resolved easier than before. As ever, new legislation is always subject to new interpretation and it will be interesting to see how the courts deal with these issues going forward especially as the act provides for new US-style “class action” in fixed price and cartel competition cases.

There are also new protections which apply where a download infects your device with a virus and the retailer will now need to cover the cost of removing it.

One other welcome addition is the replacement of the previous “reasonable” time period in which to return faulty goods and get a full refund with the much clearer 30-day period. The position after the 30-day period remains similar as before so that retailers can either repair or replace the goods (although this is now subject to the consumer’s choice) and if the problem persists the consumer can request a refund, or a price reduction if they want to keep the faulty item.

The main point for consumers to be aware of is that any physical or digital products they buy still need to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. These are the same three key points which have applied since the old Sale of Goods Act came into force in 1979 and if items fail to comply with these requirements then consumers are entitled to redress.

The first port of call when dealing with faulty goods will still be the retailer rather than the manufacturer and you should act promptly as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides important time limits which reflect the burden of proving faults with products. It is also important that consumers realise that they have the same rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 when buying high value items like sports cars and diamond rings as they do when buying their daily essentials. We would therefore always recommend that consumers take legal advice if they are in any doubt at all regarding their rights as consumers.

Many consumer disputes are already resolved by retailers and the new clarification and extension of the protection to digital products can only be a good thing. Many businesses may find however that they will need to review and possibly rewrite existing complaints policies, staff training materials and terms and conditions and we would certainly recommend that they seek legal advice to make sure that they are giving out the right information.

If you require any advice regarding consumer disputes, contact us at Freeman Jones Solicitors in Chester on 01244 506 444 and make your appointment to discuss your query with one of our team Business Solicitors in Chester.  We offer all clients an initial FREE no obligation 30 minute consultation.

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Author Colin Freeman View Profile
Colin qualified as a solicitor in 1998. He specialises predominantly in family law, litigation / dispute resolution, wills, probate and settlement agreements and has notable cases reported in the Court of Appeal and High Court.
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