Jacqui Kennedy, Acting Strategic Director of Place with Birmingham City Council, explains how new legislation gives consumers more protection and what this means for shoppers.
Shoppers in Birmingham have been busy exploring the new stores at Grand Central since the shopping centre opened its doors in September.
Keen to spend – and perhaps start their Christmas preparations – shoppers may sometimes fall foul of dodgy retailers who fail to provide refunds or repair faulty goods.
But the new Consumer Rights Act, which came into effect on 1st October 2015, makes it clear what protection customers have when they buy goods in stores or online which are later found to be faulty.
The new laws, which replace eight different pieces of legislation, state that consumers are entitled to a full refund if they return faulty goods within 30 days of purchase.
This extended returns period will also apply to faulty digital content under the Act customers are given a clear right to a repair or replacement – and retailers will be duty bound to offer a refund, rather than a credit note.
Previously it was unclear what recourse consumers had when they discovered content they had downloaded didn’t work properly, but they are now covered by the new 30-day period for faulty returns.
Consumers will also be entitled to receive some money back after one failed repair of a faulty item (or a faulty replacement), even if more than 30 days have passed – rather than put up with repeated attempts to get the item repaired successfully.
The legislation also allows customers to challenge terms and conditions which are either unfair or hidden in small print, such as booking a flight and not being properly alerted to excess baggage charges.
Under the Act, such terms must be prominently displayed and transparent, otherwise it would be up to the courts to assess the fairness.
Where services are not delivered as agreed – whether it was not fulfilled or only partially delivered – consumers are entitled to recompense if it is not possible or practical to repeat the service, for example wedding photography if a photographer misses the ceremony.
For too long people have struggled to understand the complex laws that set out their rights, but this shake up of consumer law has brought legislation into the 21st century and in line with the fact many people are shopping online.
This new Act provides clearly sets out consumers rights, which I hope will give people confidence to challenge businesses if they feel they have been treated unfairly.