What is the Consumer Rights Act 2015?
The Consumer Rights Act (CRA) is important legislation giving consumers greater protection than ever before. It came into force in 2015 and replaces both the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, and created a simpler, more modern form of consumer rights legislation fit for the technological age.
Under the CRA, consumers have more enhanced, statutory rights in relation to the quality and standard of goods and services they buy, as well as a wider range of remedies when things go wrong.
When does the CRA apply?
The CRA requires businesses who supply goods and services to consumers to comply with a number of statutory requirements (which cannot be excluded by the business):
- Goods must be of satisfactory quality: goods bought must not be faulty or damaged on receipt. The test of whether goods are of satisfactory quality is, what would a reasonable person consider to be satisfactory in relation to those goods?
- Goods must be fit for purpose: ie. fit for the purpose for which they are supplied, including any specific purpose explained to the trader when the goods were purchased.
- Goods and services must be as described: they must, for instance, match a sample or model seen by the consumer before purchase.
- Goods must be properly and correctly installed.
- Services must be supplied with reasonable care and skill.
Please note that the CRA does not apply to business to business contracts, or to consumer to consumer contracts.
What is the status of information given before purchase?
The CRA states that any information provided to, and relied on by the consumer before they buy the goods or services will be ‘implied terms’ of the contract. This means that if a consumer relies on such information in making their decision to go ahead with the purchase, that information will be treated as part of the contract itself. This means that if there is a breach of contract, the consumer can make a claim.
How are digital goods covered by the CRA?
The CRA is ground breaking in that consumer legislation recognises digital goods for the first time.
Digital content for the purposes of the CRA is ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form’ and is, therefore, distinguishable from normal goods and services.
The CRA also provides rights and remedies for consumers in relation to digital content. For instance, if you buy any digital data such as games, streamed films, and e-books, or if any digital content is provided free when you buy digital content, the digital data must:
- be of satisfactory quality within the expectations of a reasonable person;
- be fit for a particular purpose, and;
- match the description provided.
If these requirements are breached (including if a device is damaged by digital data, such as a virus), the consumer can expect a repair or replacement, or refund if repair/replacement is not possible.
Note that you cannot reject or return digital content.
The law has always required that business to consumer contracts must be fair and transparent. This means unfair contract terms and unfair notices to consumers are not particularly liked by the courts. This reflects, in part, the comparative strength of bargaining power a business has in relation to consumers. For instance, a trader that imposes a limitation clause limiting their financial liability to a percentage of the purchase price paid in the event of a breach will be unfair – and unenforceable in law.
The CRA is concerned with the fairness of contract terms or notices used by traders in their dealing with consumers. It requires that contract terms used by traders in transactions with consumers are fair; and notices issued by a trader, which can reasonably be assumed to be intended to be seen or heard by consumers, must be fair.
In addition, certain contract terms have been ‘blacklisted’ as unfair. This means those terms are considered by the law to be unfair but may not necessarily be unfair, including:
- Terms excluding death or personal injury following an act or omission of the trader;
- Disproportionately high charges if you decide not to conclude a contract or for services which have not been provided;
- Terms allowing the business to set out the characteristics of the subject matter after the consumer has become bound;
- Terms which allow the business to set the price after you have become bound to buy the goods or services.
Remedies for breach of contract
If your goods or services fail to reach the required legal standard, the CRA provides various rights and remedies. See Remedies for Breach of Contract.
If you have any concerns about the goods or services you have received, or the terms on which you bought them, you should seek specialist legal advice from solicitors experienced in consumer law.