Consumer Rights: Know Your Statutory Rights
In a dispute over a product or service? Find out what your statutory rights are under the Consumer Rights Act.
By MyLegalAdviser - Last Updated December 2017
If you're unhappy with a product or service you received, it's important you understand your rights.
That's why we've put together this guide explaining what rights you have and what your options are: whether it be returning goods, claiming a refund or going to court.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- What are your statutory rights?
- Rights in relation to goods
- Rights in relation to services
- What should you do if there’s a dispute?
What are your statutory rights?
Consumers are protected from deficient goods and services by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the Act). What rights and remedies a consumer has depends on whether the dispute relates to goods or services.
In relation to goods (e.g. a pair of shoes or a washing machine), consumers are entitled to receive items which are:
- Fit for purpose (i.e. capable of doing what they’re made for and/or what you told the seller you needed them for).
- Of satisfactory quality (i.e. not faulty or damaged).
- As described (i.e. they match the description given to you).
If the goods received don’t satisfy any of these criteria, and aren’t purely digital (e.g. apps or games), the consumer can return them within 30 days and receive a full refund. With wholly digital products the consumer is entitled to receive a repair or replacement if the electronic goods don't meet any of the above criteria.
Once the initial 30-day period has passed, the seller has the opportunity (where possible/practical) to repair or replace the goods before giving a refund.
If the consumer finds a fault with the product within the first six months, it’s up to the seller to demonstrate that the fault wasn’t there at the time of purchase. After this, it will be up to the consumer to show that that the goods were faulty at the time they received them - this can often be difficult to do.
After 6 years it's no longer possible to make a claim.
The seller is responsible for ensuring the goods are delivered to the consumer properly and without damage.
By default, sellers usually have a maximum of 30 days to deliver the goods to you. Where delivery is later than agreed and the seller was aware delivery was essential, the consumer is entitled to return the goods and receive a refund.
When supplying a service (e.g. building work or window cleaning), consumers have certain statutory rights:
- The supplier must perform the service with reasonable care and skill.
- Where no price is agreed, the service must be provided for a reasonable price.
- Where no timescale is agreed, the service must be provided within a reasonable period.
In addition to any terms of the contract, if the service received doesn’t satisfy the above criteria then, under the Act, the consumer is entitled to:
- Require the supplier to complete/redo the service at no extra cost, within a reasonable period and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer.
- Where the supplier cannot complete/redo the service or does not do so within a reasonable period, a price reduction.
What to do if there’s a dispute
Step 1 - Inform the trader
If you’re unhappy with goods/services provided to you the first step, and usually the simplest and most cost effective way to resolve the dispute, is to complain to the trader and ask for a refund/repair or for them to complete/redo the service.
Step 2 - Consider the value of the claim
If the supplier isn't willing to make good or provide a refund, it’s worth considering the value of the claim before getting lawyers involved and going to court.
Where the value of the claim is low (e.g. a few hundred £££s), costs can quickly escalate to outstrip the value of the claim itself. What;s worse, you likely won’t get any of your legal costs back even if you win at court: meaning you could win and find yourself even worse off!
Step 3 - Take advice on your position
Before starting any court proceedings, it’s worth having a consultation with a lawyer to establish the strength of your position.
It can be better to drop or settle the claim at this stage if you have a weak case rather than go to court and end up paying yours and the other side’s legal costs, plus any damages the court sees fit, if you lose.
Step 4 - Consider other options
If you do have a strong case, before launching a claim in the courts its worth considering Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
In fact, some more high value contracts will require the parties to use one or more of these options rather than, or before, going to court. The most common are:
- Mediation/conciliation – this is where a trained professional attempts to help both parties find a solution. The mediator/conciliator has no power to force either side to accept a solution, they are simply there to help avoid having to go to court. If the parties cannot reach a solution, then the next step is generally to go to court.
- Arbitration – much like going to court, an arbitrator (usually from the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators) will make a decision about the claim based on evidence both parties provide. The arbitrator’s decision is legally binding and you cannot go to court if you disagree with their decision. Arbitration is usually significantly less expensive than a full court hearing.
- Adjudication – similar to arbitration but, if you’re unhappy with the decision, you can still go to court.
Step 5 - Going to court
If you do end up going to court, which process you follow (known as the “track”) will depend on the value and type of your claim.
- Small Claims Track - If value of your claim is £10,000 or less, your case will be allocated to the Small Claims Track. Given the lower value of claims in the Small Claims Track and the fact that costs of legal representation cannot be recovered from the other side, most who end up in this track represent themselves (sometimes with some strategic legal advice) in order to keep costs down.
- Fast Track - If your claim is between £10,000 and £25,000, your case will be allocated to the Fast Track. Parties in this track will need to follow certain set procedures before attending court.
- Multi Track - Where a claim is over £25,000, or is particularly complicated, the parties will enter the Multi Track. In this track the pre-trial procedures will be determined by the judge depending on the type of claim.
Parties entering the Fast or Multi Track will almost always require legal advice and representation.