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New Consumer Rights Legislation Comes Into Force In The UK

New Consumer Rights Legislation Comes 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 law into one and implements the EU's Consumer Rights Directive into UK law.

The reforms will change rules on business' liabilities when supplying all goods and services to consumers. Traders can no longer exclude their liability for failure to perform a service with reasonable care and skill, nor their failure to perform a service in accordance with information that they provide about themselves or their service. In addition, businesses can no longer limit their liability to below the price paid, 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 are not performed in line with information that the trader provided about the service, businesses can now be required to re-supply those services or to reduce the price that 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.

The 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 following delivery or installation and new limitations have been set on business' right to make a deduction from consumer refunds in order to reflect the consumers use of those goods.

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

In most cases, buying goods on line is covered by Distance Selling Regulations, which provide further protections over and above the Consumer Rights Act; however the new Act is the first piece of legislation to regulate the supply of digital content and applies where digital content is either charged for or is given free alongside goods or services for which the consumer has paid.

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, if a download will not play, consumers will be entitled to a replacement, but usually not a refund (although in some circumstances a retailer may offer a partial refund).This is because of the difficulty of proving that a download does not work. Retailers may also stipulate that the customer needs to have certain software in order to play a film or music.

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 to any other digital content (for example, by introducing a computer virus).

Significantly however, guidance issued by the Competition and Markets Authority in August confirmed 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.

For more information about this or any other aspect of consumer law, please contact Kelly Henderson on 01325 466461 or email her kelly.henderson@close-thornton.co.uk

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