By Amanda Hamilton, CEO of NALP
So, Christmas is over, and you have received some lovely gifts, but what if amongst the plethora of presents, there is something you don’t like, or something which turns out to be faulty? Can you return the items and get a refund?
The answer is that without a receipt there’s not a lot you can do, although a local charity may well appreciate it!! However, if you are not shy in asking for a receipt, or the giver of your present has offered you the opportunity to change the item if you don’t like it then that is a whole different ball game.
With so many of us shopping online now it is not just a question of taking something back to the shop with a receipt. What are your consumer rights in relation to items that have been shop-bought or bought online whether by you, or by someone else buying you a gift?
A new statute was introduced known as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which became law on 1st October 2015. This statute was specifically introduced to simplify, strengthen and modernise the law, giving you clearer shopping rights. It replaces three previous statutes, and includes rights in relation to items bought online and digital downloads.
As with previous legislation, under the Consumer Rights Act all products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
The rules also include digital content in this definition. So, all products – whether physical or digital – must meet the following standards:
- Satisfactory quality. Goods shouldn’t be faulty or damaged when you receive them. You should ask what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory for the goods in question. For example, bargain-bucket products won’t be held to as high standards as luxury goods.
- Fit for purpose. The goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.
- As described. The goods supplied must match any description given to you, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.
If what you’ve bought doesn’t satisfy any one of the three criteria outlined above, you have a claim under the Consumer Rights Act against the retailer (seller) as opposed to the manufacturer. So, any fobbing off such as ‘we have to send the item back to the manufacturer’ can be ignored.
What you can claim, depends on how much time has passed since you physically took ownership of the goods. You also need proof of purchase such as the receipt.
30-day right to reject
Under the Consumer Rights Act you have an absolute legal right to reject goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, and get a full refund – as long as you do this quickly within 30 days of taking ownership. You take ownership of the goods when you pay for them in a store and take them away, or when the goods are delivered to you if you’ve paid online.
Outside of the thirty days – Repair or replace
If you are outside the 30-day right to reject, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital content which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.
If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund, or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.
The first six months
If you discover the fault within the first six months of having the product, it is presumed to have been there since the time you took ownership of it – unless the retailer can prove otherwise.
If you’d prefer to keep the goods in question, you can request an appropriate price reduction.
Six months or more
If a fault develops after the first six months, the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time you took ownership of it. In practice, this may require some form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range.
You have six years to take a claim to the small claims court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Consumer Rights Act defines digital content as ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form.’
Just like goods, digital content must be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for a particular purpose
- as described by the seller.
If digital content does not conform to these criteria, you have the right to a repair or replacement of the digital content you’ve bought.
So effectively, the 2015 statute is a very useful piece of legislation to protect your consumer rights not only relating to purchased items but also in respect of the supply of services as well.
However, what happens if the item is not faulty, but you simply don’t like it? Can you get a refund or exchange it?
Most stores, online or otherwise, will give you a period of time to get a refund in such circumstances. Some offer such a high level of customer service that they will give a refund on returned goods after a ‘reasonable’ period of time provided the returned item is as new and a receipt is produced. But beware, they do not have to legally do so outside of their specified deadline.
If you are finding that a retailer is not being very co-operative, it’s useful to mention that you ‘know your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015’. This should nudge them into compliance with the law, but if they are being extremely stubborn and you feel you need additional help then engaging a suitably qualified and licenced Paralegal can be a much cheaper option than using a solicitor. Paralegals can do most of the same work as solicitors (with a few exceptions, known as reserved activities) and charge considerably less. Ensure your paralegal is licenced and registered with a membership body such as NALP (National Association of Licenced Paralegals).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its training arm, NALP Training, trading as National Paralegal College, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.
See: http://www.nationalparalegals.co.uk and https://www.nalptraining.co.uk/