March 31, 2015
Defined as many commentators to be the biggest shake-up of consumer law, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 comes into force later this year. Businesses will need to sit up and take note of the implications this has for the way they deal with consumers.
The main purposes of the Act are as follows:
- To consolidate and bring together all aspects of consumer law into one piece of legislation which protects the rights of consumers. The law deals with the conduct of businesses dealing with sales of goods, supply of services, and unfair contract terms;
- To bring consumer law into the 21st century by dealing with any issues relating to digital media. The advent of social media platforms such as facebook, twitter, and linkedin together with the invention of mobile phone applications and DVD had not been addressed by reference to law until the Act was drafted;
- To add some certainty to the existing law by not only reiterating certain points from previous legislation but attempting to provide some certainty in relation to timescales. For instance, the existing law refers to ‘reasonableness’ which usually turns on a question of fact depending on the circumstances in which business and consumer operate. Under the new Act, there is the ’30 day’ period which means that should the goods be found to be faulty within the first 30 days of being purchased, the consumer is entitled to repair, replacement, or refund within that period of time. In addition, the business will not be allowed to limit their liability or exclude the operation of the law in their terms of business;
- To protect consumers from being on the receiving end of a substandard service. This is achieved with the Act automatically providing consumers with the right to a repeat service or price reduction in the event that a substandard service has been provided in the first place; and
- To grant enforcement powers to certain bodies and individuals (i.e. Trading Standards Officers) to investigate and deal with any issues surrounding possible breaches of consumer law.
What this means for businesses is that they will need to review their terms and conditions of business now so as to ensure that they do not contradict the Act. For most, there is unlikely to be changes required as most of the Act reflects the current practice set out in existing law. The businesses that are most likely to be affected are those that do not have any terms and conditions or those that are engaged in digital media sales.
If you are not sure as to whether your terms and conditions of business require any updating in light of the new law, please contact us.