Readers will be aware of the trumpeting surrounding the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) which came into force on 1 October 2015. It aims to bring the law up to date for consumer sales across the board, with particular focus on unfair consumer contract terms and the supply of digital content. But what has changed for sales conducted through bricks and mortar shops? This note sets out the key points:
- Quality: the goods must be of “satisfactory” quality (no change) but this can now be measured against content of adverts published by the manufacturer (although there is a defence if the retailer could not reasonably have been aware of the statement). So a consumer can return an item to the shop not just because the product is substandard, but because it does not match claims made in advertising.
- Defective installation: If the consumer purchases installation as part of a sale of goods and if the installation is carried out incorrectly, then the goods are deemed to be defective (even though the goods, on their own, are fine). So if the installation is badly carried out, the consumer may be entitled to cancel the whole contract and return the goods.
- Digital content: Many electronic items bought in shops these days require installation of digital content (such as software). Under the new rules, if the digital content included (such as a software CD) is defective, that means the whole product is deemed defective.
- Delivery: If goods are ordered instore for delivery to the consumer, then unless there is a specified date for delivery, it must occur without delay and in any event not more than 30 days after the order. A consumer can reject goods if the delivery is made late and the retailer was informed that delivery by the agreed date was essential.
- Right to reject and require a refund: Consumers now have a statutory 30 day ‘short term’ right to reject the goods and require a refund if they were defective when supplied. This cannot be shortened by agreement, and it does not matter if the consumer agrees to accept the goods before the end of the 30 days. If the consumer allows the retailer to repair/replace, the clock stops running while the retailer carries this out, so the consumer still has the right if the repair/replacement does not work. After the 30 days, the right to reject is still there, but the retailer can try to repair or replace the goods (see next points).
- Right to repair or replacement: The consumer can require a repair or replacement and the retailer must offer whichever the consumer chooses, unless it is ‘disproportionate’ to the alternative. All costs (including removal and reinstallation) must be borne by the retailer. This applies during the 30 day period and beyond.
- Right for retailer to try to repair or replace: After the 30 days, the retailer can require the consumer to accept a repair/replacement instead of a refund, but the retailer can only try this once and if, after one attempt, the goods are still defective, the consumer is entitled to insist on a refund.
- Long-term right to reject: The consumer can reject defective goods and require a full refund or agree to keep the goods and accept a price reduction (partial refund). This is the consumer’s choice. Unless the goods are rejected after six months, the retailer cannot deduct from the refund for use made of the goods.
Many retailers already comply with the above as part of their customer service offerings, but some practices may be out of date now, so policies and staff guidance should be reviewed quickly to ensure that stores do not unwittingly break the new law.
Eddie Powell, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)