Consumer rights – what you need to know

Whenever you buy something, be it a product or a service, on the high street or online, you have rights. Knowing your rights can help if what you have paid for does not meet your expectations or is faulty.

Consumer Rights Act 2015

Any product or service, physical or digital, bought online or in store must meet the following standards:

  1. Satisfactory quality – Your goods should not be faulty or damaged, or at least of satisfactory quality. For example, second hand goods are not held to the same standards as brand new.
  2. Fit for purpose – you should be able to use it for the purpose they were supplied for.
  3. As described – your goods or service must match the description, model or sample shown at time of purchase.

Your rights to a refund, repair or replacement change as time progresses.

Your consumer rights within 30 days

In the first 30 days after purchase, you have the right to reject the goods. This means you can return an item which does not meet the three criteria for a full refund.

This right does not cover digital downloads, but you can ask for them to be repaired or replaced. If unsuccessful, you have the right to get a price reduction.

Your consumer rights after 30 days of buying

After 30 days, you are not legally entitled to a full refund. However, you can ask the retailer to replace or repair the goods, which do not meet the three criteria.

For digital downloads, where a repair of the original download is not possible, you should be given the chance to download it again.

Your consumer rights within 6 months

If a product develops a fault within the first six months after purchase, it’s assumed it has been present since the time of purchase. This means it’s up to the retailer to prove it wasn’t there when you bought it.

If a repair or replacement has failed, you have the right to reject the goods for a full refund or price reduction.

Your consumer rights after 6 months

If a fault develops after six months, it’s up to you to prove it was faulty at the time of purchase or delivery.

Find out more about your rights under the Consumer Rights Act on the Which? website.

Consumer Contracts Regulations

Since June 2014, the rights and protections you had under the Distance Selling Regulations were transferred to the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

If you buy something, without seeing it in person first, for example, if you make an online purchase, you are covered under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, as well as the Consumer Rights Act.

Your consumer rights within the first 14 days of buying online

You have the right to cancel your purchase for a full refund from the moment you place an order, until 14 days after it was delivered.

Delivery

Delivery of purchases is covered under the Consumer Rights Act. This means the retailer is liable for getting the product safely to you, not the courier it employs.

Default delivery

the retailer must deliver what you’ve ordered within 30 days, unless another time frame was agreed with them.

Late delivery

If you have agreed a delivery by a certain date, for example, getting presents delivered in time for Christmas, and the retailer fails to meet this, then you have the right to cancel for a full refund.

Returns

When you return items because they do not meet the three criteria of the Consumer Rights Act, the retailer must refund standard delivery costs. If you pay for extras on the return, for example next day delivery, you will have to cover the additional cost.

Find out more about your delivery rights on the Which? website.

Second-hand purchases

Your rights when buying second hand depend on who you bought the item from.

If you bought from a retailer or trader, not a private individual, you are covered under Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Consumer Rights Act. This means you have the standard right to cancel or to reject under the three criteria.

Buying from a private seller makes things slightly more complicated. As long as the product has been accurately described, you are not entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.

Find out more about your rights when buying second-hand on the Which? website.

Digital content

Digital content purchases, such as software or music downloads, come under the Consumer Rights Act. This means they must meet the three criteria. If they don’t, you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.

The retailer might also owe you compensation if the digital product you bought also damaged any device it was used on or other digital content – assuming you used all reasonable care and attention.

Find out more about your consumer rights on digital content on the Which? website.

Perishable goods

Perishable goods are a complicated case as they might not make it to the 14 days-after-purchase limit under the Consumer Contacts Regulations, let alone the 30-day limit of the Consumer Rights Act.

Under these circumstances, the period will be determined by how long it is reasonable to have expected the goods to last.

For example, on food items you would reasonably expect the item to last until its use-by date.

Services

From a haircut and dry cleaning to building work and accounting, a wide range of services are covered under the Consumer Rights Act. However, there are slightly different criteria:

  • Service must be carried out with care and skill.
  • All information, written or spoken, is binding when the consumer relies on it.
  • If a price is not agreed beforehand, the service must be provided at a reasonable cost.
  • Unless the timescale is agreed beforehand, the service must be carried out in a reasonable time.

If the service fails to meet these standards, the service provider should either redo certain elements of the service, or perform the whole service again at no extra cost. If this is impossible you are entitled to a price reduction.

Find out more about your consumer rights for services on the Which? website.

Used cars

Second hand cars are consistently the most complained about product when it comes to consumer rights.

Traders and private sellers

If you bought from a trader, you are covered under the Consumer Rights Act and the standard time frames.

If buying from a private seller, you have fewer rights, so as long as the car was accurately described, you will not be able to claim a refund.

Find out more about your rights when buying a second hand car on the Which? websiteopens in new window.

Car brokers

Using a car broker is becoming an increasingly popular way to buy a car. You give the specifications of the car you want to a car broker, who will then deal with all the traders and dealerships to find you the best deal.

Under these conditions, and provided you meet the requirements set out, you might be covered under the distance seller element of the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Section 75

Along with your rights under the Consumer Rights Act and Consumer Contracts Regulations, buying with your credit card can offer added protection for purchases between £100 and £30,000 under the Consumer Credit Act.

Transactions of any value on debit cards or pre-paid might be covered under a voluntary scheme called chargeback.

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