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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.

Comments
John Kay says:
3 July 2019

Bought a 2nd hand car from the official Seat dealer. Noticed on the way home what appeared to be a smear arc on the windscreen. On cleaning this discovered it was in fact a quite sharp scratch. Under the Consumer Act does this constitute a repair or replace the windscreen situation with the dealer liable?

You have statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act, John. It is not reasonable to expect a secondhand car to be perfect and what is reasonable will depend on age and mileage. In addition you may have a warranty provided by the dealer, which may or may not cover the problem.

I suggest you start by having a friendly word with the dealer as soon as possible. If you want to establish whether a repair is possible you could ask one of the companies that repair/replace windscreens beforehand.

Here is advice from Which? https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/the-second-hand-car-i-bought-has-a-problem-what-are-my-rights

I bought a watch online but there is no movement of the hands (I am guessing the battery may be exhausted). In my view this would define the watch as faulty, as I cannot determine if it’s broken or just needs a new battery.

Having had a similar (scuba) watch before, I know it would cost around £25 to send to an authorised service agent to replace the battery and pressure test, and indeed check that it does work.

Do I have the right to either return it as faulty item, postage free (it was delivered postage-free as it was over £50 purchase) or should I negotiate with the shop for a partial refund for the service – which would also be an inconvenience?

How long ago did you receive the watch, Caterina? That could determine your consumer rights and the best way forward.

The batteries installed in new products often have short lives.

wev says:
6 July 2019

Did the website say if battery was included?

Jennifer Macrae says:
8 July 2019

I ordered flowers to be delivered on a certain date for an occasion and they did not arrive on time.

I have been in contact with the company who have advised that it is due to me living in Scotland and they dont class this as mainland therefore it is tough I have requested a refund which they have refused – still do not have the flowers

Sarah Lawrence says:
8 July 2019

I bought a Zanussi washing machine from Marks Electrical which broke down after three months. A contractor was sent out to repair it and once again the same issue with the rubber seal has broken the machine. Zanussi and Marks Electrical are refusing to replace the machine as they told me it has to be an ‘inherent’ problem. I have no choice but to accept repair knowing it will do the same thing in three months time as clearly a fault with the machine. The engineer actually told me that I shouldn’t put towels in the machine!!! What can I do?? I don’t feel the machine is safe as the rubber seal twists and comes away from the machine and the smell of rubber feels unsafe.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 a product has to be fit for purpose. Unless you have misused or abused the machine, a rubber seal that fails is clearly their problem to resolve and is a fault. In the first 6 months this fault is assumed to exist at the time of purchase. The retailer has, in law, one opportunity to repair or replace the machine, but at your choice, unless one is disproportionate in cost to the other. Presumably simply replacing a seal was cheaper than replacing the machine. However if that repair fails you have the option to accept another repair or a refund (or a replacement appliance). If this happens outside 6 months from purchase you may be offered a reduction in the original price to allow for the use you have had. At worst this should be based on an expected working life – say 6-8 years.

The retailer has to abide by the CRA otherwise they are breaking the law and open to prosecution.

I suggest you explain this in writing to the retailer and remind them of your legal rights and their obligations. If you are persuaded to accept another repair I suggest you do it on the basis that if that should fail they will replace the machine, or refund your money. If you are a Member of Which? legal service they will help you with your submission, but no reason not to do it yourself.

Karen says:
8 July 2019

My Husband and I recently received the final paperwork for our Power of Attorney application.
We have only just realised that my Husbands middle names have been entered on all the forms the wrong way round. The company that we used are asking us to pay half of the costs to get the names put the right way round. My Husband would not have given his own name incorrectly therefore we feel the company should be responsible for this cost. Shouldn’t the company have experts that check and also should they not send a clear check list for the client outlining the relevant, important things to look out for when checking? We noticed a couple of other errors beforehand that were rectified but didn’t notice that my husbands two middle names were the wrong way round. We definately gave his name correctly in the first instance.

Denise says:
9 July 2019

Ordered two units from argos with delivery was supposed to be delivered Tues between 7.30am to 9.00pm only hours later had an email.and text from Yodel to say goods will be delivered Wed live chat argos out of their control what yodel do

David Wright says:
10 July 2019

In brief my wife purchased a brand new VW Tiguan R-Line 2.0 Tdi 190ps DSG on 03.03.2017. A vehicle with a RRP close to £44,000.00

Upon the short period of ownership that followed it became apparent that a sporadic mechanical grating noise was emanating from the transmission area upon gear downshifts and low speeds.

The issue as noted was duly reported to the service department of selling dealership on 02.05.2017.

On 19.05.2017 our Tiguan was assessed by the service department. I accompanied the assistant Service Manager who confirmed my concerns and the grating noise. Later that same day I collected the aforementioned car and was advised that the dealership were involving the manufacturers technical department to assist with their enquiries.

On 27.06.17 I notified VW customer Services of my concerns.

In the meantime I researched many online forums and websites to identify if any other VW Tiguan owners were experiencing the same noise issue only to discover that the noise issue had been commented on by owners of SKODA Kodiak, Audi Q3 and VW Tiguan’s throughout the UK, SIngapore, Russia, Germany, Australia, Romania and Norway to name a few.

I uploaded a sound recording (recorded on iPhone) to YouTube of the noise from the DSG gearbox of my wife’s VW Tiguan which has had nearly 6,000 views and 40+ comments from owners who are experiencing the same or similar problem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O96j_x9M3fk and forum https://www.tiguanforums.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=1583

On 07.07.2017 I received communication from the selling dealership that VW Technical advised them that the noise emanating from the drive train of my wife’s Tiguan was a “characteristic” even though the dealership head of business confirmed his own R-Line Tiguan made no noise. I advised the dealer that i did not accept their findings. Both VW technical and the selling dealer have refused to elaborate or confirm why the noise is apparent and which component the noise is emanating from.

The selling dealer has agreed to re purchase my wife’s car at market value which will realise a loss of approximately £8,000.00 on the price purchased after travelling 2,400 miles. This is not an acceptable resolution to the concern.

I duly advised the finance company of my disappointment and in response they are agreeing with the findings of the dealer and VW technical which was expected given that the finance company is VW Financial Services.

On 24th August 2017 I appointed the services of an independent automotive engineer (DEKRA) to conduct an assessment of my wife’s Tiguan.

The engineer confirmed the noise and concluded that the mechanical grating noise was not acceptable.
The engineer advised that the noise may get worse in the future.

As neither the selling dealer, the manufacturer Volkswagen or the finance company will accept liability I am left with no other alternative but to call upon the services of the Motor Ombudsman to conclude my concerns to a satisfactory outcome, an out come that will result in a full refund as the selling dealer cannot guarantee a replacement vehicle free from the ‘characteristic’ that has impacted upon this current Tiguan ownership.

On 5th September 2017 I contacted the Motor Ombudsman for support. Over a period of 10 months the Motor Ombudsman concluded “If I ask myself the question, do I think it’s right for a brand new vehicle which is sold based on the driving experience it offers to have a noise where the cause cannot be determined? I have to say no, and the independent technical evidence – which has to be the strongest here, as the engineer is independent of both parties – backs this up as well” “As such, I cannot justify an argument that the vehicle is of satisfactory quality based on the evidence presented to me in this particular complaint.”

Unfortunately, VW, VW Finance and the selling dealer did not accept the Motor Ombudsman’s findings so I was left with no other alternative but to appoint legal representation via my household insurance legal cover.

DLG legal Services were appointed in December 2017 and from that day delay after delay ensued as my solicitors attempted to resolve this dispute with Volkswagen and their representatives. In the meantime my wife’s VW Tiguan was parked on my drive unused since May 2017 having only travelled 3,500 miles at the time of writing this correspondence. My wife has continued with her HP payments, road tax, servicing costs and GAP insurance which along with depreciation and the fact that she has had to purchase another vehicle, the monthly cost has been in excess of £800.00 per month.

After 10 months of delay and dialogue between my solicitor and Volkswagen, Volkswagen appointed a automotive ‘expert’ to examine my wife’s VW Tiguan. The vehicle assessment was conducted in January 2019.

The ‘experts report was finally finally disclosed some 8 weeks later on 7th March, which confirmed that the ‘expert’ could not determine the grating noise as witnessed and experienced by myself, DEKRA and Volkswagen. I duly contacted my solicitor to express my profound disappointment on 11 counts of the vehicle assessment which were duly put before the ‘expert’ to answer. Yet again lengthy delays ensued until a response arrived on 4th July 2019. As expected the 11 points raised were not answered with any detail which further compounded my thoughts that the so called ‘expert’ was appointed by Volkswagen and so delivered the response that Volkswagen desired. The ‘expert’s’ appointment and his subsequent report questions his credibility and integrity alongside his experience and knowledge in a subject that he appeared to have very little knowledge or qualifications.

I have expressed my dissatisfaction at the ‘experts’ final response to my legal representative who astonishingly appears to accept the ‘experts’ reply. I have know instigated a formal complaint in the manner in which my wife’s legal representation was handled as upon perusing the case files it appears that Volkswagen were afforded better defence by DLG legal Services than my wife was who they were supposed to be legally representing.

In the meantime my wife’s unused, very costly and ever depreciating VW Tiguan remains resident upon our driveway.

Any professional or legal advice would be welcome to rid us of this Volkswagen ownership nightmare.

Susan Mackenzie says:
11 July 2019

bought a zanussi integrated fridge last year,for my new kitchen,was delivered 28/04/18,kitchen came 5th may so wasnt fitted until early may.said fridge now doesnt work,6weeks out of warranty,fixed price repair offered which i accepted,£125,to be told the compressor was not working,needed re-gassing and not worth doing.I am in contact with zanussi and electrolux who did the call out,I am told as i had the call out,I am not entitled to anything but they will offer me another fridge,which I have to pay for,but I cannot find this fridge on any website,and have to pay £155, I was hoping they would replace f-o-c as its only 13 1/2 months old at time of first contact with companies and surely a fridge should be expected to last longer than just over a year?/

F Husain says:
12 July 2019

Can an organiser of a weekend retreat take full booking price and not refund it if stated clearly in T&Cs at time of booking (ie – “in the event of the retreat being cancelled the deposit paid is non-refundable”) ?

I would say that only the deposit can be withheld by the organiser. If you do not get the balance back then you could use the court claims process to recover the money and your expenses in doing so. A letter in the first place stating your intention to do that might resolve the issue before legal action.

The deposit should be just a holding deposit to cover the unavoidable costs of setting up the retreat and reserving accommodation, etc. Since in booking a place on the retreat you accepted the terms and conditions, including the deposit, you cannot complain if the deposit appears to be excessive so long as the terms were not unfair and were in general reasonable.

The terms did not state the full booking price would be payable, so this seems to just revolve around the deposit. In my view if the organiser chose to cancel a “commercial” event for whatever reason I see no reason why they should hold on to any monies paid, including the deposit. Otherwise the arrangement would be open to abuse – taking deposits with no intention of proceeding with the event, for example. I’d suggest this might be an unfair contract term and not enforceable.

Hopefully Which? will advise us.

This is an interesting example of how companies are increasingly trying to transfer all commercial risk to customers.

Personally I think non-returnable deposits are sensible where there are up-front costs that cannot be recovered in the event of a cancellation. The reasons for the cancellation are highly relevant and should not be for expediency or convenience.

For many activities, especially in the ‘leisure and pastimes’ sector, finding an operator without restrictive terms and conditions is difficult or it is reflected in the price.

Market competition, and a cheap and effective means of getting redress [e.g. Trading Standards], are the best ways to drive out commercial abuse.

Bronia Hughes says:
12 July 2019

we paid a deposit on a bath and taps with a company who said delivery would be within 3 weeks and we would have to check it within 5 days – however they have just called to say delivery is delayed and we cant have it for nearly 3 months – we want to cancel to get it elsewhere but they are insisting on keeping the deposit – can they do that

I think extending the delivery period by over two months is unreasonable and it would be unfair to withhold the deposit in my view. The company has accepted an order which they cannot fulfil within a reasonable time from the declared delivery period and you should be entitled to source the products elsewhere. You should formally demand repayment of the full deposit and indicate your intention to pursue it through legal action.

A question might arise whether the original timescale of three weeks was misleading or a misrepresentation.

Act fast; companies that withhold deposits or delay fulfilment are sometimes on the edge of solvency.

Glenn says:
12 July 2019

I bought an iphone in 2014. In May 2018 it became damaged and Apple wouldn’t replace, they offered me a replacement for £125. Yesterday almost 14 months after I purchased that phone, it became critically damaged. Under the Consumer Rights 2015, do I have any recourse for Apple to repair my phone? I have been to see them however they say the my consumer rights were transferred back to my 2014 purchase which I know has got to be incorrect but it’s impossible to make them budge. I could do with some consumer advice.

Hi Glenn – Did you buy the phone from Apple? If not your rights are against the company that sold it to you – the retailer. What do you mean by critically damaged? If for example it will not work properly you may have a claim but if you have damaged it, the retailer can avoid a claim on the basis of misuse.

When goods are replaced the guarantee or warranty period relates to the original purchase date unless specified otherwise. Presumably you have been given a new phone or a refurbished replacement that is newer than the one you purchased in 2014. I expect that a court would see the £125 payment as a contribution towards the use you have had from the phone – though I’m no legal expert. Rather than accepting a replacement phone it might have been worth pushing for a free repair, under the Consumer Rights Act.

J HADDON says:
14 July 2019

If an item is found to be faulty and the retailer is notified within 28 days, can the buyer insist on a replacement rather than a refund in circumstances where the replacement cost is significantly higher than the original price at which the item was sold (possibly because of the flaw, not declared at the time and of which the retailer may not have been aware).

Karlie says:
15 July 2019

Hi

I have a pair of GHD platinum straighteners, they heat up and work for 5 minutes then they flash red and switch off. I have contacted GHD and they have said they cannot do anything as they are out of warranty. Is there anything I can do to argue the case?
Thanks

David Morris says:
15 July 2019

All of the windows on my motorhome were replaced under warranty in august last year,less than 12months ago,the rear offside window has now developed a new fault the rest are ok, when I contacted retailer who contacted manufacturer the response from both is sorry out warranty, surely windows should last longer than 11months

I agree. I suggest you pursue this under the terms of the consumer rights act.

SueA says:
15 July 2019

My daughter paid for rear parking sensors from a Ford dealership in October 2017. They don’t work, constantly beeping as if she is near to something when she isn’t. After contacting Ford they say the sensors are only under warranty for one year. Surely they should last longer than this?