Principles of consumer law – quality and consumer rights

The term ‘consumer law’ refers to any piece of government legislation designed to protect consumers from poor-quality products and poor business practices. In the UK there are two pieces of legislation that form the basis of consumer rights: the Consumer Rights Act (2015) and the Consumer Protection Act (1987).

The Consumer Rights Act (2015)

This act replaced and updated previous legislation. It was also the first consumer legislation to include digital products. It deals with transactions between a seller and a buyer, and is designed to protect consumers from unfair and dishonest business practices. It covers:

  • the product or service
  • returns
  • repairs and replacement
  • delivery

The product or service

Goods must be:

  • described accurately – businesses should not describe goods and services in a misleading way
  • fit for purpose – goods must do what they are designed to do
  • satisfactory quality – goods should not be damaged or faulty when sold as new

Services should be supplied under minimum standards, which include:

  • the service provider must use reasonable care and skill in delivering the service
  • any written or verbal information provided by the supplier is binding
  • the service must be provided in a reasonable time, unless agreed otherwise
  • the service must be provided for a reasonable price, if the price is not agreed beforehand

Returns

Under certain circumstances, consumers can reject a product (excluding digital products) and return it for a full refund within 30 days of taking ownership of it. They can do this if the product is not as described, unfit for purpose or not of satisfactory quality.

Where a fault develops within the first six months, it is presumed that the fault was there when the consumer took ownership of the product, unless the business can prove otherwise. After six months, the responsibility for proving that the fault was there when they took ownership falls on the consumer.

Repairs and replacement

After 30 days, a consumer must give a business one opportunity to repair or replace any goods, including digital goods that are not as described, unfit for purpose or not of satisfactory quality. If the repair or replacement is unsuccessful, the consumer can claim a refund or price reduction.

Delivery

Delivery should usually take place within 30 days, unless agreed otherwise at the time of sale. The business selling the goods remains responsible for them until they are in the possession of the consumer. Failure to deliver within 30 days, or by the agreed date, gives the consumer the right to cancel the purchase and receive a full refund.

The Consumer Protection Act (1987)

This Act is designed to ensure that products are safe. It makes businesses that produce, rather than just sell, liable for any damage caused by poor quality or defective products. The producer is considered to be an individual or company who puts their name or trademark on a product, or has imported it into the European Union in order to sell it on.

It gives anybody the right to claim against the producer of a product for any damage caused by a manufacturing defect.