What are my consumer rights when buying online?
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to contracts and notices between a “trader” and a “consumer” in relation to goods or services purchased on or after October 1, 2015.
Buying in shops
A big hole in the old consumer laws was they did not deal with digital content – music downloads or anything else supplied in digital form. There was no such thing when most of the laws came into existence in the 70s and 80s. The CRA recognises digital content and says that such content must be:
- Of satisfactory quality
- Fit for a particular purpose
- As described by the seller
- If digital content does not meet these standards the consumer has the right to a repair or replacement
- If this doesn’t fix the problem, the customer can ask for a price reduction.
Retailers will have to provide compensation if any device or other digital content, owned by the consumer is damaged because of the digital content downloaded.
Retailers are responsible for goods until they are in your possession.
Retailers need to deliver within 30 days, or on the date that has been agreed. If they do not the following applies:
- If it was essential that it was delivered on time, you can terminate the purchase and get a full refund.
- If the delivery isn’t time-sensitive but another reasonable delivery time cannot be agreed, cancel the order and get a full refund. The Consumer Contracts Regulations still apply to items bought online so you have 14 days to return goods, no questions asked.
Hiding things in the small print is now banned.
The CRA means all contracts must now clearly state the main elements of the deal and outline the price in a transparent and prominent way.
The terms must be in plain and intelligible language and, if written, in a legible format.
The terms must be prominent so an average well-informed, observant and circumspect consumer would be aware of them.
It’s now not acceptable for key terms to be hidden in pages of terms and conditions that you need a magnify glass to read. Terms other than those specifying the main elements of the contract and setting the price will seen as unfair if:
They are contrary to the requirements of good faith. They must be designed, negotiated and entered into with you in a fair and open way.
They cause a significant imbalance between the rights of the retailer and you as the consumer to the detriment of you.
The CRA provides a three-tier approach to remedy matters when things go wrong:
Tier 1: The short-term right to reject.
If, when supplied, the goods do not meet the purpose they were bought for, there is a period of 30 days (following purchase or delivery) in which you are entitled to reject them.
In this case, you can claim a refund which must be given without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days of the trader agreeing that you are entitled to a refund.
Tier 2: Repair or replacement.
When there is a breach of contract, but you have lost or choose not to exercise your right to reject goods, you will be entitled to claim a repair or replacement.
The trader must do this at no cost, within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience.
Tier 3: Price reduction and the final right to reject.
If repair or replacement is not available or is unsuccessful, or is not provided within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience, you can claim a price reduction or reject the goods.
Where repair or replacement fail, you choose whether to keep the goods or return them. If you decide to keep the goods, then your claim for a reduction in price; if you return them, you are rejecting them.