New law giving consumers 30 days to return faulty items coming into effect

The new rules protect you when you buy digital music, films, games or books

Simon Read
Personal Finance Editor
Tuesday 29 September 2015 17:14
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Workers in West Somerset are most likely not to be paid the living wage, according to government figures
Workers in West Somerset are most likely not to be paid the living wage, according to government figures

A new law is coming into force that gives you greater protection when buying. The law introduces new rules to protect you when you buy digital music, films, games or books. The Consumer Rights Act becomes law on 1 October and will extend the rights you have when buying other goods or services may to digital products, including apps or anything you stream.

Those rights are getting stronger and consumers are being warned to understand how to make the most of them. The most important change under the new rules is the right to a refund within 30 days if you buy something that’s faulty, whether it’s online, through a high street store, or from any other retailer. Now you have up to 30 days to return a faulty item and get all your cash back, no questions asked.

Previously the law wasn’t clear about the time limit - in fact it was defined as a “reasonable length of time”. That gave retailers the opportunity to wriggle out of treating you fairly by setting their own “reasonable length of time” which could be as little as seven days in extreme cases.

MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis, says: “In the past, the time limit was far too loosely defined as, ‘you can take it back as long as you haven’t accepted the goods’. This new clarification on the time you have to return something is important.”

Consumers must understand their new rights and know how to assert them if necessary, says Helen Dewdney, who blogs as the Complaining Cow.

However those returning items between one and six months after they bought now face fresh difficulties, he warns. That’s because under the new rules set out in the Act, after 30 days you now have to give retailers a chance to repair or replace a faulty item before you’re entitled to ask for a refund or price reduction.

“It used to be that you were entitled to an exchange, a repair or a refund, but now the onus is on the fact that the company must be allowed to repair or replace it. Only if it goes wrong after that are you entitled to a refund, and that may be a partial refund where appropriate,” Mr Lewis says.

Under the new rules, if you qualify for a refund in the first six months after you’ve bought something retailers have to return all your money, unless it’s a motor vehicle, where a reasonable reduction can be made for the use you’ve had of the vehicle.

Consumers must understand their new rights and know how to assert them if necessary, says Helen Dewdney. “Many stores want to shirk their legal responsibility and provide a repair or replacement, rather than give a full refund. But unless consumers know that they can insist on this refund up to 30 days from purchase it is likely that many retailers will continue to fob them off.”

For digital buyers, the new laws will be the first time they’ve been given clear legal protection. The rules will cover any digital content –anything you download or stream – including apps, music, movies, games or ebooks.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, says: “The Act brings the law up to date and strengthens consumer rights. Getting a refund or repair, dealing with issues with faulty digital downloads and challenging unfair terms should all be made much simpler.”

That latter point is also crucial. Now the key terms of a contract, including price, may be assessed for fairness. Previously such terms were exempt from a fairness test if they were written in plain language. It means that now, a company won’t be able to enforce unfair terms.

Consumer groups will be watching firms to ensure they play fair from now on with consumers. They must ensure staff are aware of the changes so they’re not short-changing customers or breaking the law.

You can find out all about the new rights the Citizens Advice website at bit.ly/1FAyBNr

Which? has also produced a useful guide to the Consumer Rights Act which can find online at bit.ly/1WvDH1l

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