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Do you know your consumer rights?

Ever had a faulty product, missing parcel, dodgy second-hand car or delayed flight? Well, you have rights – but do you know what to do with them?

Last year, we asked 2,000 of our members about some common consumer rights misconceptions.

We found some scenarios seemed to be cut and dry – such as returning a faulty second-hand car to a dealership or staying in a room with a carpark view instead of the seaview you’d booked.

But others were a lot more confusing.

For example, we asked if it was true or false whether a landlord was responsible for all repairs and maintenance to a property.

44% said true     |     29% said false     |      27% didn’t know

The correct answer is true – but you’ll need to check your tenancy agreement as to what is the tenant’s responsibility. Usually this comes down to keeping the property in a good state of repair, changing the lightbulbs and keeping plugholes clear.

Read more about your responsibilities as tenant in our guide

Does where you shop change your rights?

We asked if you ordered a product online, you have more more rights to return it than if you ordered in-store.

40% said true, but 60% either didn’t know, or incorrectly thought you had the same rights in-store as you do online.

In fact, you have much more enhanced rights shopping online thanks to the 14-day cooling off cancellation period which doesn’t end until 14 days after you receive whatever you bought online.

Read our guide to cancelling an order for goods or services you placed online

“I’m renting and there’s mould”

We also asked if it was always the landlord’s responsibility to remove mould.

33% said true     |     27% said false     |     40% didn’t know

This answer is false as, sometimes, depending on the type of mould, it falls on the tenant’s shoulders to remove it. You can read more about which mould is whose responsibility in our free guide.

Helping resolve your queries

Here at Which? Conversation, we’re often asked to help with problems varying from delivery issues to misleading advertising and from faulty televisions to shady art dealings.

And fair enough, consumer law can be complicated with lots of grey areas and uncertainty about where to turn if you’re not being heard.

Visit Which? Consumer Rights

Have you had any problems where your consumer rights haven’t been upheld? Or any issues where your rights haven’t been clear? Tell us in the comments and we can help direct you to the right advice.

Aleks Sadiku says:
27 May 2020

Please help before I pull my hair out for the n-th time.

18 months ago I bought a Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 on Black Friday for £770 (down from £970). Around March/April, the touchpad started playing up but I needed to homework (for Covid purposes) so I just used a usb mouse. I then had a spare window where I could just go to work for a week so I reported it with them, they went onto my laptop virtually (on April 22nd) saw that it wasn’t working, generated a pre-paid UPS Tracking piece of paper. On Friday 1st May, I sent the laptop to a UPS drop-off centre and on tracking, it seemed it had made it’s way to Tamworth by the evening. I had been told by Microsoft it would take 3-5 days, website said 6-8 working days.
On the 4th working day, I contacted them using their chat facility because UPS tracking said it was still in transit even though it should have reached Microsoft by Monday (1st working day). The lady on chat said they had received it so I shouldn’t need to worry. I contacted them again on the 7th working day since sending it and was told actually, they hadn’t received it and would be starting an investigation with UPS – I was quite angry, I waited 7 working days (chased twice) to be told it hadn’t arrived a week earlier. It’s now the 27th of May, I’m still without a laptop, it’s still under investigation – I’ve just been asked for proof of purchase (aren’t I the victim here?!) – I’ve had to go into work every day (I work in a hospice with multiple Covid patients), I have my end of final year uni exams in <2 weeks (I've not been able to revise for them properly at all), I've had to delay onboarding of new clients and I have tax returns which need to be filed by 31st May or else my clients get a £100 found which will effectively be my responsibility. I'm chasing them every 2 days to no avail and it's incredibly frustrating.

What are my rights?

SR says:
27 May 2020

What is the position please with airline T&C’s interfacing with the legislation regarding cancelled flights. My understanding is that under legislation consumers are entitled to cash refund where the airline cancels the flight. Credit card companies are also on the hook jointly. They both push back referring to the airlines T&C’s. I assume that it’s not possible to contract out of the legislation so T&C’s are irrelevant.

Hi SR,

I am sorry to hear about your issue with your airline(s).

You are correct in stating that a certain piece of law applies when an airline cancels a flight. European Union regulation EC261/2004 states if a flight is cancelled and you are departing from an EU Member State then you are entitled to re-routing to your final destination under comparable means or to a full reimbursement of that ticket price.

With regards to return flights, you must once again be flying into an EU Member State Airport but your Airline must be a European Community Air Carrier in order to be entitled to a refund.

In terms of credit card companies, you are once again correct, they can bee held jointly and severally liable for a breach of contract by the Airline under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. There are however limits to this avenue of recourse. If each individual ticket costs less than £100 and if you booked through a Travel Agent/Agency then section 75 may not apply.

I hope the above information is of assistance. If you do require further tailored legal advice, please contact Which? Legal to explore your membership options.

This information is provided by Which? Legal. To join call 01174 054 854 or visit Which? Legal to find out more.

Evgeni Hristov
Which? Legal – Legal Adviser

Julie says:
31 May 2020

Hi I’ve bought a ring door camera I fitted it in 2017 the colours in the pictures are all pink I know I’m out of warranty but how long is something classed as fit for purpose ?
I would have expected it to last longer than this

Em says:
31 May 2020

You might want to check the ribbon cable connector hasn’t come loose. A pink picture suggests the green colour signal is missing.

The problem with a device like this is it is exposed to the elements. Water, sunlight can all take their toll. Disappointing, but the manufacturer may say this is caused by a problem beyond their control.

The Consumer Rights Act offers protection that extends beyond the guarantee period but it might be difficult to make a successful claim after six months unless it can be shown that there is some deficiency in the product. It might be possible to get some sort of goodwill, such as a discount on a replacement product.

If a product is going to be disposed of, there’s nothing to be lost by having a go at fixing the problem, as Em suggests.

Which? seem to ignore advising the use of the “durability” requirement in the CRA. This means a product should last a reaonable length of time for its cost, and can be usef for the 6 years the CRA is applicable (5 yrs Scotland).

Clearly, someone has to do some work to show what durability of various products should be expected, but we fund Which? and other organisations to work on behalf of consumers.

It might be more difficult to show a product has been correctly used but failed prematurely as the product ages but for major appliances manufacturers could embed monitoring software; they are quite willing to make appliances “smart”.

But surely a clear example of when (lack of) durability should be used for the consumer’s benefit is when an appliance fails not long after the (short) guarantee has expired. Yet this seems not to be advised. Why is this, I wonder.

Julie – Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as well as being ‘as described’ and of ‘satisfactory quality’, goods must be ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘last a reasonable length of time’ [i.e. have reasonable ‘durability’].

I don’t think you would have much of a ‘not fit for purpose’ claim because, if a fault develops after the first six months, the burden is on you to prove, possibly with expert evidence, that the product was faulty at the time you took ownership of it.

I suggest that you follow Em’s advice and check to see if the wiring has become loose; if so, and you can fix it, but you still have a problem with colours, then I think you could go back to the retailer to seek a repair or replacement because I consider that a product like that, even bearing in mind its exposure to the elements, should last a good ten years before failing – after all, “Ring” doorbells can cost as much as any major household appliance. Bringing claims for lack of durability is difficult because there are no legal guidelines on the reasonable lifespan of products and a court case [with an unpredictable outcome] could swallow up even more money than the item is worth.

Malcolm – I agree with your comments. So far as I can see, Which? does not even mention ‘durability’ in its consumer guidance on the CRA – see:

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was passed partly in order to make up for the loss of easy public access to trading standards services and to create a fairer trading environment so that consumers could exercise fundamental [and legally indisputable] rights themselves. It is a great shame that one of its main criteria has been so badly neglected that it could now be regarded as unfit for purpose. Without a dedicated consumer affairs minister it is no doubt difficult to get government action to deal with this shortcoming. Within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [BEIS] there is a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State [Minister] with responsibility for small business and enterprise (including access to finance), consumers and competition (including competition law), labour markets, postal affairs, and the retail sector. Paul Scully MP [Sutton & Cheam] is his name and he has been in post since 13 February 2020.

In order to make a successful claim rather than just goodwill, the product would have to be examined to established if there is a fault with the product or how it has been used, taking into account the instructions. As Em points out, exposure to the elements can be a problem. The CRA is intended to be fair to both consumers and to retailers.

Not really any different to dealing with a warranty claim, where misuse or abuse can be a factor. At present it seems we can only rely on goodwill, whereas the law provides a remedy that we should gear up for. Manufacturers can, as I suggest, include software for many things, so why not use it to check for correct use of a product and to identify the fault.

A product designed to fit on the exterior of a property needs to be designed to withstand normal weather conditions and therefore have a reasonable life expectancy. Three years or less is not reasonable, in my view.

Julie’s doorbell doesn’t work properly any more. It should not require an expert examination to prove that. The images can be forwarded electronically to anyone who doubts Julie’s word.

How many times a year does a doorbell get activated?

Malcolm – We don’t have to rely on goodwill. If we feel we have a valid case we can pay for an expert opinion as to why the product has failed. Some companies are prepared to provide this free of charge and as a result I have had a free replacement engine from VW and a major repair to an Apple laptop, both more than two years out of guarantee. I have never had to pay for a faulty product to be examined but would be prepared to do so and if my claim under the CRA was successful would try to reclaim the cost of the expert’s report.

Some faults are because of the way a product is used rather than an inherent defect. For example, if a dishwasher fails due to hard water causing a problem or the brushes of a washing machine motor wear out, that’s not the fault of the manufacturer or retailer.

Of course, and that can be done by agreement with, and the cooperation of, the retailer. If the consumers pays for the inspection if it is their fault and not a defective appliance. We also need guidelines and reasonable durability so all concerned can view an incident on a common and agreed basis. This is where I consider we need work done by consumer organisations to determine what appropriate fault-free lives should be.

John – I believe it would be useful to log faults and if investigation shows that there is a design fault causing premature failure require retailers to provide a remedy. I remember a discussion involving Patrick Steen about a known problem with the PS3 games console. If a video doorbell was not adequately sealed against water ingress then the same would apply. I am not aware of any current legislation that requires customers to be provided with a remedy under the CRA, but if I was making a claim I would collect as much information as I could about similar failures. If a remedy was a refund it would be reasonable to make a deduction for the length of time between purchase and the fault being reported.

I have politely reported concerns about poor design to manufacturers and have been provided with free spare parts outside the guarantee period. That does not help those who don’t have the confidence or knowledge to take action, which is why I am keen on identifying products with known problems. In my younger days I used to repair TVs as a hobby and the books I referred to listed the known problems with a particular model. Our former contributor Duncan Lucas had a set.

Which? Connect could be used to log faults.

A fault symptom such as a TV not displaying a picture could be the result of many causes. A survey might be useful to find out if a particular model shows the same symptom, allowing any recurring problem to be investigated and identified.

I’ve suggested that it would be useful to consult service engineers who are familiar with repairing household products to identify common faults that might be caused by a design problem.

There have been examples of motor manufacturers providing free or cheap repairs for known problems.

According to the John Lewis website, the Ring “Smart Video Doorbell Pro with Built-in Wi-Fi & Camera plus Ring Smart Chime” [£169.00] is “weather-resistant, operating between -21° and +48° C, to work rain or shine”. They say they have sold 25 in the last 48 hours.

Out of 171 reviews of this particular model there are seven 1-star and two 2-star reviews, of which none mentioned this fault and the negative comments were usually unrelated to the product itself but to the installation or the technical requirements for the installation. Of course, most customer reviews are submitted shortly after delivery or installation so would not comment on durability issues. That is another inhibitor of consumer action.

According to some reviewers Ring has a very helpful customer help service so it might be worth Julie having a word with them in case it is a known problem and they have a fix for it.

John Spencer says:
1 June 2020

We bought a rattan L shaped seat for our garden, the main body lives outside 24/7, we always bring the cushions in if it looks like its going to rain, and we bought and use a cover for the main body, we bought it in 2017, but on interest free credit.
When we have started using it this year, there are lots of places where the rattan has become brittle, is snapping or breaking. We cannot find the receipt from the shop as my wife had a big clear out of paperwork.
Am I right in thinking that buying via interest free credit changes your rights/length of guarentee….of am I making that up?
Any help very gratefully received.

Robert askey says:
2 June 2020

I have a Samsung 43 inch smart TVs it is only 18 month old used probably 3 hours a day average turned it on could not get a picture or sound took it to a repair shop he said it was the main board and would cost £220 to fix surely a TVs should last longer than that or do you have to take out the extra warranty on everything

Hi Robert – You have rights against the retailer for up to six years and the advice on the Which? website will help you make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product Note that the manufacturer, Samsung, has no legal responsibility, though sometimes they offer goodwill.

Your case is complicated by the fact that you have involved a repair shop rather than gone back to the retailer, but at least it has provided an expert opinion about the fault.

It would be interesting to know how the retailer responds if you make a claim. Best of luck.

Robert, as you have identified where the failure is your formal claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 would, I suggest, be that it failed the “Durability” requirement that is a key part of the contract you have with the retailer. It did not last a reasonable length of time. I doubt anyone could dispute that. I would expect a decent retailer to recognise that, repair or replace or give a substantial refund and themselves gain redress from their own supplier.

If you look up the CRA you will see the Durability retirement.

As things may not be that simple if the retailer is uncooperative you could then contact Samsung and hope for goodwill from them. Then try Which?Legal to put pressure on the retailer.

Vicky Saunders says:
2 June 2020

I bought some expensive Fitflop wellies last October which have split. Fitflop say I can return them but they can only issue a refund in the form of a voucher as more than 6 months have elapsed. Is that correct?

Em says:
2 June 2020

Unfortunately, expensive does not necessarily equate with durable. Hunter went through a very bad patch when they exported manufacturing to China. I would say the offer of a voucher for footwear over 6 months old is reasonable. In general:

– If a product develops a fault within six months of purchase, the assumption is it has been present since new. It is up to the retailer to prove it wasn’t defective when you bought it.

– If a fault develops after six months, it is up to you to prove it was faulty at the time of purchase. Assuming the wellies have been worn, this could be challenging.

Take the voucher.

I hope that the voucher that Vicky has received is generous. If not I would push for more.

It never fails to amaze me that goods sold under a brand name can differ so much. Years ago I bought a pair of Clarks sandals, was very happy with them and bought a second and eventually a third pair. The first pair wore out after a great deal of use, the second pair is doing very well and hopefully the third pair will serve me well, but have only been used indoors so far. A few years ago I bought a different style of Clarks sandals, left them in the shoe cupboard for a few years because I had not needed them. I got them out recently and after two wearings they have gone in the bin.

It’s not a bad idea to give products some use soon after purchase because faults often become apparent in the early days.

Molly Storey says:
2 June 2020

I had to buy a new computer and choose one from Acer. I made the purchase and then received an email saying the required me to email my driving licence or passport to them. I thought this sounded odd and so contacted them. I didn’t feel comfortable with sending this kind of thing online and they told me I could cancel. I looked into other providers , who assured me that they didn’t require me to supply such personal info. online and then purchased a Lenovo computer and went back to cancel my Acer order – this all happen over the process of a couple of days. I was told that it would take up to 12 days to receive a refund. It’s now been 18 days and I’ve received nothing and they are not replying to my messages. What’s more, they phone advisers consistently gave me differing information when I rang – one told me that the money wouldn’t have been taken from my account and that I needed to check this with Paypal. I checked and the money had been taken. I then rang my credit card and they confirmed that the amount had been taken and said that it was coming up under a food supplier rather than a tech company which again seems odd! All of this is very distressing and I need to get my money back. I would like to contact an ombudsman but can’t seem to find on for computer sales. Can anyone advise me?

Em says:
2 June 2020

Contact PayPal who are supposed to offer protection for purchases not received.

An ombudsman (is there one for computer sales?) is not going to help you. Contact Which? Legal or your local CAB if you need more advice.

Pete says:
3 June 2020

Hi we bought a car 12 months ago and we have a faulty something in the car and water constantly fills up the passenger wells in the back .
The motor company that sold us the motor can not find the fault and now trying to make us take the car back and give the courtesy car back, surely they can not do that and it was sold to my wife on finance.
She is non British and had only been in the country 4 months ( is that legal as well )

S Smith says:
3 June 2020

I recently ordered an ebike for £899 my order was accepted. Instead of taking the online discount of £100 I opted for interested free credit and was willing to pay the full £899. The advertised delivery time was 10 days, after 16 days I emailed to chase up my order. My response was that it was cancelled due to lack of stock & that it was to be removed from their website. I kept and eye on the website, it wasn’t removed, and when I toyed with ordering again, it was stating not available for click and collect, limited home delivery etc, so looked as if it was possibly in stock. It was however, now £999. I placed an order 2 days after my cancellation. I waited, it was delivered within 10 days. So they lied about stock, they just increased prices. I accepted the price increase by placing the order, but its not exactly ethical, my question is, Is it legal? do I have any rights to insist that they accept my original order instead as the reason they gave for not fulfilling it was a lie?

Bikes and bikes have been in great demand and the retailer has presumably been taking orders based on the expectation of receiving stock and may have had supply difficulties. It’s poor practice to continue to advertise products if they are out of stock but it still happens.

You have agreed to pay the higher price and the goods have been supplied, so the contract has been completed. I suggest pushing the retailer to refund the price difference. I suspect that it would be very difficult for you to prove that the retailer had deliberately not supplied the goods in order to raise the price.