Consumer rights can seem confusing to the uninitiated but it’s well worth arming yourself with a knowledge of the law in relation to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so you know what to do if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly.
As a consumer you have certain rights, depending on the type of contract you’ve entered into – whether you’ve bought a car, booked a holiday, purchased items from a retailer, or signed up for an insurance policy, if you’re not happy with the goods or service you’ve received, there are certain steps you can take to rectify the situation.
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The Consumer Rights Act, which became law on October 1, 2015, replaced three earlier pieces of consumer legislation. It consolidated the law to make it easier for consumers to deal with any problems. So, what does it mean for you when buying goods or services?
Buying items from a retailer
All goods must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and as described. If the product you’ve purchased doesn’t meet any one of the criteria, you can make a complaint directly to the retailer. Some will tell you to contact the manufacturer, but this isn’t how it should be done.
You have a 30-day right to return goods of unsatisfactory quality for a full refund. If you’ve had the product for longer than 30 days, you won’t be entitled by law to a full refund if the product develops a fault, but some retailers may offer you a refund anyway to maintain customer satisfaction.
The right to receive a refund doesn’t apply to downloadable products such as games, music and apps, although if they’re faulty, you can ask if they can be repaired or replaced, or receive a price reduction.
Beyond the 30 days, you can ask a retailer to replace or repair faulty goods. You can get a full or partial refund only when:
- It’s impossible to repair or replace the faulty item
- Receiving a replacement or a repair would cause you significant inconvenience
- Any repair would leave you waiting an unreasonable amount of time
Buying a motor vehicle
When you buy a car which turns out to be faulty, consumer rights depend largely on where you bought it and how it was described. The law provides less protection for private sales than it does for purchases from car dealerships.
- Dealerships: Consumers have some statutory rights and the right to reject during a 30-day period is applied, although the description “of satisfactory quality” takes into account the vehicle’s age and mileage if it’s a used car. Outside 30 days, it’s more difficult to prove that a fault is responsible for a problem, rather than normal everyday wear and tear, so your rights diminish.
Contact the dealer with your complaint and keep a written record of all your conversations, with dates. If you can’t reach an agreement, state in writing that you wish to reject the car (as long as it’s within six months of purchase). If all else fails, contact the Ombudsman services or your Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
- Private sales: This is the most high-risk way of buying a car, as if something is wrong with it, you have little legal protection. The law stipulates the seller must have the legal right to sell the vehicle, that it must be roadworthy and that it must match the description. However, the buyer is responsible for checking, before purchase, that the car is fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. Once you’ve driven away, your rights diminish.
Even if you’ve bought from a reputable site, such as eBay, if you’ve collected the car yourself and paid cash, you will have no backing if something goes wrong. Once you’ve driven away, you’re pretty much on your own. Private sales can also be risky because they can be a way of offloading faulty or even stolen cars.
- Car auctions: This can be risky for anyone not familiar with the way auctions work. When you’ve made a bid, it’s legally binding and you can’t undo it. So, before you bid check out the car thoroughly, preferably with an independent expert. Also read the small print in the auction house’s rules, so you know what to expect if the car turns out to be faulty. Sadly, at live car auctions, you may not have any protection if the car is “sold as seen” and you successfully bid on it.
- Payment by credit card: If you’ve bought a new or used car from a dealer and it turns out to be faulty, if you paid part or all of the cost by credit card, your credit card issuer may be able to help you to get compensation under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
- Debit card: Although you won’t be covered by Section 75, you may be able to claim a refund through the voluntary “chargeback” scheme supported by some companies including American Express, Visa and MasterCard debit cards. Enquire with your debit card provider.
Buying a holiday
If you buy a package holiday and something goes wrong, you have various rights under the Package Travel Regulations 1992. For example, if you wish to cancel a holiday due to a natural disaster or civil unrest at your destination, your rights depend on the advice given by the Foreign Office at the time.
If you need to cancel because of a personal problem you’re experiencing, you have the right to transfer the holiday to another person, such as a family member or friend. Legally, you’re not entitled to a refund from your tour operator, but you may be able to claim back costs from your travel insurance provider. Always find out what your insurance covers before you book.
If your travel agent goes bust, there are multiple courses of action you can take. Your first port of call is often the ABTA claims office to find out more information.
If you have a disastrous package holiday, you have rights entitling you to compensation under three criteria:
- You didn’t receive the holiday described to you at the agreed price
- You were given details about the holiday that were factually incorrect and misleading
- You weren’t provided with clean, safe accommodation at the resort.
Make sure you complain through the correct channels to receive financial compensation. This can include loss of value – the difference between the value of what you booked and what you actually received – your inconvenience and your out-of-pocket expenses.
Insurance is a necessary evil when it comes to protecting your home, car or holiday. It can be expensive, but in the case of vehicles is mandatory and in other instances can save you a fortune in the long term if your home or possessions are damaged or lost.
Consumers’ champion, Which magazine has published a handy guide to insurance rights, as it can be difficult for the average consumer to navigate the legal jargon involved with an insurance claim.
Will companies co-operate?
It’s never pleasant making a complaint about any aspect of consumer purchasing, but the process can be made much easier if the business co-operates.
Some businesses will always go the extra mile to help a customer in order to leave them with positive memories. In many cases, the customer will reciprocate the goodwill by leaving a positive review for the business.
According to a 2016 survey by the Institute of Customer Service, based on consumer feedback, the UK company offering the best customer service was online retailer Amazon, with 86.6% of customers being satisfied with the goods and service they received.
Second was utilities giant Utility Warehouse, which went straight into the top 50 with a customer satisfaction rate of 86.4%. The top supermarket was Waitrose, fifth overall with 85%, while the top department store was John Lewis, sixth overall with 84.9% customer satisfaction.
The top insurance company was SAGA Insurance, eighth overall with 84.1%, while the top car brand was Mini, 12th overall with 83.3% customer satisfaction.
Importance of customer satisfaction
The value of providing customer satisfaction that leads to positive online reviews can’t be over-emphasised. Statistics show a whopping 92% of consumers read online reviews, with 80% trusting them as much as a personal recommendation.
Psydro’s reviews platform helps consumers make an informed choice about the companies they wish to use for goods and services. We also help businesses to keep on top of consumer trends and find out if there are any areas for improvement so that the necessary changes can be made quickly, based on the knowledge gained from our impartial reviewing platform.
Even if a bad review is received, as long as the problem is resolved quickly and satisfactorily, statistics show 95% of customers who have complained will come back for repeat business. It follows that a reviews platform such as Psydro provides real advertising benefits.