More Consumer Protection

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Last month the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force.  Whilst this consolidates much of the existing familiar consumer protection including that in the Sale of Goods Act and the Unfair Contract Terms Act, it brings consistency to contracts consumers enter into on a day to day basis such as sale, HP, Hire of Goods, services and also covers digital commodities which the old law had not kept up with.

There is now a unified definition of “consumer” applying throughout the activities covered by the Act. A consumer is an individual acting for purposes which are “wholly or mainly outside the individual’s trade, business, craft or profession”.  Some use for the person’s business may not be a bar to that person being protected. Generally good news for people working from home.

The Act introduces a new “short term” right to reject where goods are non-conforming on delivery so long as this is done within 30 days as agreed with the trader or where the consumer has given the trader the opportunity to repair or replace the item seven days from the end of the “waiting period”.

Whereas ordinarily the right to reject can be lost by acceptance or acting in a way inconsistent with rejection this cannot now happen in the first 30 days.

Traders in supply of work and materials such as double glazing can no longer sidestep the more onerous aspects of consumer goods legislation by showing problems arose from installation.  If goods are installed as part of the contract they must conform in the same way as any other goods.

The evidential rule that defects in goods appearing within the first six months after supply are deemed to be non-conforming unless the trader can prove otherwise is preserved.  After six months the burden of proving a defect at the point of supply falls back on the consumer.

Once the thirty day period has expired at the request of the consumer the trader has one opportunity to either repair or replace the defective item.  Otherwise if all else fails the consumer is given a right to insist on a price reduction or the final right to reject.

After the first six months if the consumer is entitled to reject, it would be normal for some reduction in the return value of the goods to reflect the consumer’s use during the period.  Exceptionally in the case of motor cars a deduction for use should be made within the first six months.

Dermott Thomas is a partner and specialist litigator/advocate at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich solicitors

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