…But now it’s over what are your consumer rights to return unwanted items?
During October, November and December last year, consumers spent on average in excess of £98 billion a month. Despite evidence that high street shops continue to struggle, online sales are continuing to surge. An estimated £4 billion was spent over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday long weekend last year alone and is expected to rise in 2017.
In the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, and also looking forward to Christmas, Boxing Day and January sales, it is important to know your rights in respect of returning purchased goods.
On 1 October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force. The aim of the Act was to simplify when you, as a consumer, can claim a refund for faulty goods and when you have to give the vendor (seller) a chance to put things right. Over two years later, this area of law has had time to settle down. The Act deals with three areas: goods or services purchased at the point of sale (e.g. bought in a shop), goods or services purchased online and digital content purchased online.
When you buy something, either in a shop or online, you are entitled to expect that the goods you have bought will:
- Be of satisfactory quality;
- Be fit for their purpose (or any purpose specifically stated to the vendor);
- Match any description, sample or model provided; and
- Be installed correctly.
If you discover a fault within 30 days then you have an automatic right to reject the goods and to receive a refund. You can elect to have a repair carried out if you wish, but that is your choice. The 30 day time limit for rejection is paused whilst any repair is carried out.
If you discover the fault after 30 days but within 6 months of the date of purchase then it is assumed the fault was there when the goods were bought. Unless they can show otherwise, the vendor has to offer a repair or replacement, and you have to give them one chance to do this. If the item cannot be repaired or replaced then you are entitled to your money back. Please note that if the item has been used by you, you may then not be entitled to all of your money back.
At any time up to 6 years from the date of purchase you may be entitled to some money back if the goods do not last as long as expected, provided they have been used in a reasonable way.
For goods bought online, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 also provide that you can, in most cases, return goods and seek a full refund within 14 days of receiving them simply because you have changed your mind about wanting them. This is often known as the “cooling off period”. This right does not usually apply to personalised/custom-made goods nor to perishable goods such as flowers or food. There is no equivalent right to a refund in respect of goods purchased in a shop just because you have changed your mind.
It is also worth mentioning that some vendors may have extended returns policy in respect of faulty and non-faulty goods purchased online or in store. This is often the case around Christmas, given that many purchases are gifts which may not be opened or used for some time. It is therefore a good idea to check the vendor’s returns policy as those terms may have formed part of the sale and may improve on the statutory position outlined above.
When you purchase a service, either in a place of business or online, you can expect that:
- The service will be carried out with reasonable care and skill;
- The service will be done for a reasonable price;
- The service will be carried out within a reasonable time; and
- Any information said or written to a customer will be binding when the customer relies on it.
If the service is not carried out with reasonable care and skill, you are entitled to ask for a repeat service or a suitable fix. If it cannot be fixed, you should be entitled to some money back.
If you have not agreed a price or timescale beforehand, the price charged and the time taken must be reasonable. If it is not, you may be entitled to withhold some payment.
In relation to services ordered online, you can in most cases cancel within the 14 day cooling off period. However, if you have specifically agreed that the service can start within that period, you may be unable to cancel or may be charged for what you have used.
If you buy digital content, you can expect it to be:
- Of satisfactory quality;
- Fit for purpose; and
- As described.
Digital goods include computer games, virtual items purchased within computer games, films, e-books or apps purchased for your smart device.
If they are not as they should be then you have the right to a repair or replacement. If the fault cannot be fixed, has not been fixed within a reasonable time or the repair causes you significant inconvenience, you should get some or all of your money back. In addition, if you can show the fault has damaged your device and is attributable to the vendor then you may be entitled to a repair or to compensation.
As with other online purchases, you have a right to change your mind and to seek a full refund within 14 days of purchase. If, however, you start the download or otherwise use the content during the cooling off period, you may have waived the right to change your mind.
If you have a problem with faulty goods or services or if you are a business and would like legal advice please contact the Commercial Litigation team at Hunt & Coombs on 01733 882800.
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