Consumer Rights Act now in force in the UK

Out-Law News | 02 Oct 2015 | 5:17 pm | 2 min. read

New consumer rights legislation has come into force in the UK.

The Consumer Rights Act, which took effect on 1 October, sets out rights for consumers, and responsibilities for businesses, in relation to the trade of goods, services and, for the first time, digital content.

The Act consolidates 100 separate pieces of consumer laws into one and implements the EU's Consumer Rights Directive into UK law.

The reforms bring changes to rules on business' liabilities when supplying services to consumers. Traders can no longer exclude their liability for failure to perform a service with reasonable care and skill, or their failure to perform a service in accordance with information they provide about themselves or their service.

In addition, businesses are now prohibited from limiting their liability to below the price paid, or the value of any other consideration exchanged, for such failures on their behalf, or for their failure to charge a reasonable price and to supply services within a reasonable time.

Where services are not performed with reasonable skill and care or not performed in line with information the trader provided about the service, businesses can now be required to re-supply those services or reduce the price they charged consumers where re-supply is not possible. These 'repeat performance' and 'price reduction' provisions represent two new statutory remedies available to consumers under the new Act.

Price reduction remedies are also available to consumers if businesses fail to perform services within a reasonable time or if the services provided do not align with the information the trader provided about themselves.

The new Act also provides consumers with a new short-term right to reject goods up to 30 days after the purchase. A final six month deadline for rejecting goods will apply to goods following delivery or installation and new limitations have been set on business' right to deduct from the amount they owe consumers in refunds to account for their use of those goods.

A number of other remedies are available to consumers should businesses breach consumers' statutory rights. They can opt for goods to be repaired or replaced, for there to be a price reduction and in cases where goods sold do not conform to pre-contract information, consumers have a right to recover up to the full price paid for goods.

The Act is the first piece of legislation to regulate the supply of digital content and applies where digital content is supplied for a price or for free alongside goods or services which the consumer has otherwise paid for.

The supply of digital content is treated in a similar way to the supply of goods under the Act as the digital content must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and match the description of it made by businesses supplying it.

However, whereas consumers can reject goods in certain circumstances, they have no rights to reject digital content and receive a refund. The new Act stipulates that where digital content is provided under a contract, the trader will be liable for any damage which the digital content causes to any device or other digital content.

Guidance issued by the Competition and Markets Authority in August confirmed, though, that businesses selling or licensing digital content will not have to honour most rights and remedies that consumers will have under the new Act where those consumers exchange access to their personal data rather than money in return for that content.