We have just seen a huge change in an area of law affecting all of us – and it is very welcome.
As of the start of October the Consumer Rights Act has undergone the biggest change in consumer law in a many a long day.
It applies to all purchases made after October 1, 2015, and its purpose is to make consumer law far easier to understand.
Now, for the first time, anyone who buys faulty goods will be entitled to a full refund for up to 30 days after purchase, when previously consumers were only entitled to refunds for a “reasonable time”.
Also, and embracing the modern age, there will be new protection for people who buy digital content, such as online films, music and e-books.
Now they will be entitled to a replacement if the downloads are faulty, but not a refund.
To add to this, if a download infects a computer with a virus, the provider could also be liable to pay compensation for getting rid of the virus.
Even second-hand goods are covered, when bought through a retailer. To add to this, services such as car repairs and haircuts are also given stronger rights.
Under the changes, providers who do not carry out the work with reasonable care, as agreed with the customer, will be obliged to put things right or they may have to give at least a partial refund.
Often retailers offer to refund goods even if customers change their minds about a product – but there is no statutory right to a refund.
These laws will help people to know and use their rights as and when disputes occur. Consumers will now be able to avoid court and take their complaints through a cheaper route of certified Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers.
The Consumer Rights Act says that goods must be of satisfactory quality, based on what a reasonable person would expect, taking into account the price. Also they must be fit for purpose. If the consumer has a particular purpose in mind, he or she should make that clear and also meet the expectations of the consumer.
This new change also enacts a legal change enabling British courts to hear US-style class action lawsuits where one or even a group of people can sue on behalf of a much larger group.
It will be easier for groups of consumers or small businesses to seek compensation from firms that have fixed prices and formed cartels.
So, as of now, it is a good time to be a consumer – but, of course, you will be in a stronger position if you know your rights, so be aware of them.