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The biggest shake up of consumer law in a generation

Man playing video game

Today the Consumer Rights Act was given Royal Assent in Parliament. Here’s Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson on why it will help empower you when things go wrong with products, services and digital content.

The measures included in the Act will come into full effect in October 2015, so that gives you time to make sure you understand the new rights and responsibilities. This Act will make the UK’s consumer law clearer and easier to understand, meaning that consumers can buy with greater confidence and businesses will know what is expected of them.

Consumers spend as much as 190 million hours a year trying to resolve issues with goods and services they have purchased – the new Act will help to reduce that and make the whole process easier to navigate. This clarity was the driving force in designing the new legislation – making sure that people know what they can do when things go wrong.

There are too many separate measures to go into in detail here, but I would like to outline some of the most important.

Rejecting faulty goods

We’re introducing a 30-day time period for the rejection of faulty goods to get a full refund. The law has previously been unclear on how long this period should last but, as of October, it will be clearly defined.

You’ll also have clear rules for what should happen if a service isn’t provided with reasonable care and skill or as agreed. For example, this could be a catering service delivered lukewarm or decorating that’s been completed in the wrong colour.

New rights for digital content

I think the reforms we have made to consumer law for digital content mark a real turning point. We have updated the law for the 21st Century by giving you clear rights when you buy digital content, such as film and music downloads.

It’s an important step – digital content is a large and growing part of the UK economy. You will have new rights in relation to the quality of digital content, and we are setting what you can expect from businesses if things go wrong.

I’ll give you an example – let’s say you’ve been playing a ‘freemium’ computer game, and during that time you’ve spent money on in-app purchases to improve your game character. After your last character upgrade, the game stopped working. Under the Act you would be entitled to a repair or a replacement. If a repair isn’t provided within a reasonable time or is impossible to replace then you’d be entitled to some money back.

Fewer disagreements when things go wrong

These updated rights will help consumers and businesses avoid disagreements. This will mean fewer hours navigating your rights in the unfortunate event that something goes wrong. It will mean better relationships between businesses and consumers, and easier conversations when something goes wrong because there will be a clearer understanding of what the rules mean.

I look forward to October when these changes will come into force. I know that Which? members and supporters will be among the first to understand what they will be able to expect when they make purchases, and to start changing how they talk to businesses. I think the Act is an enormous achievement, and I thank Which? for their invaluable input throughout.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson. All opinions expressed here are Jo’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Member

As Jo says, the new legislation should be a great help for consumers in relation to digital content and the ability to reject faulty goods after purchase. I am very much looking forward to October, when the law becomes effective.

I do hope that there will be a better relationship between consumers and retailers in the event of problems, but remain to be convinced that this will be achieved. What particularly concerns me is the current failure of even the largest retailers to accept that they have a responsibility under the Sale of Goods Act if a product fails after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired, despite lack of evidence of abuse or excessive use.

Member

I forgot to mention the link in the introduction does not work.

Member

Now the link has disappeared. 🙁 Here is a link to the press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/biggest-overhaul-of-consumer-rights-in-a-generation

Member

Here is a link to the Consumer Rights Act 2015: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/pdfs/ukpga_20150015_en.pdf

Member

Reasonable product durability – trouble free operation for a sensible length of time or cycles – is a key issue in my view; I don’t know whether the new act improves upon the Sale of Goods Act in this respect. I did ask Which? in the formative stages if it was contributing on this topic. I also hope Which? will address the issue of developing reasonable durabilities for key products so a claim can be made with credible support. Consumers who pay good money for what they believe to be a decent product should expect it to last without fault for a reasonable time and, if it does not, to get a sensible solution without them suffering undue expense.

Member

One way of pursuing the matter of durability would be to assist a few members make claims against retailers under the Sale of Goods Act.

In the past two years, Which? has used actors to establish that major retailers are avoiding their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act. Actors can only do so much, but using real people with faulty goods would enable cases to be pursued to a successful conclusion. These examples could be used to give others confidence to pursue their own claims.

It might help to take some large retailers to court to help them appreciate that consumers have legal rights and it is simply not good enough to say that they cannot help because products are out of warranty or to tell us to take the matter up with the manufacturer.

Member

This is a good step forward and I welcome it. Just saving 10% of those 190 million hours sorting out product and service problems would be very useful and lowering the temperature of consumer disputes will be a great help on all sides. Training for staff will be the key and, like Wavechange, I have some misgivings that it might take some time for things to change of the shop floor. I am also worried that more and more consumer relationships are on the shady side of the marketplace these days where the light of inspection and regulation doesn’t shine brightly enough. I hope it is not presumed that the new Act might pave the way for further reductions in the trading standards services; if anything it should enable them to take stronger action on important issues and do more effective enforcement work.

Member

John, that’s 11000 (unproductive) jobs lost 🙂 .Perhaps if they were redeployed in Quality control some of the remaining 170 million hours might also be saved.

Member

I think the 190 million hours quoted in the intro was the time spent by consumers but it is probably roughly matched by staff time in the companies we deal with – so a massive drain on our productive capacity. I wonder how that statistic was calculated. It will be interesting to see how this figure changes under the new law.

Member

Presumably an under-employed goverrnmernt department used stop watches to come to this statistic John? Personally, I would rather we spent the hours making products more reliable and simplifying the ways consumers can get redress when a product fails before it should.

Another useless statistic is that those wasted hours represent £1.235 billion at the minimum wage rate. That would pay for around 19 000 000 appliance repairs or fund around 10 000 000 small claims court cases (or give 13 million people free subscriptions to Which?).
😀

Member

The Act is not available online at this moment AFAIK but what may be of interest is the discussions around it as collected here:
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/consumerrights/documents.html

A copy of the Act is needed to see what actually made it into the final edition as there is a lot of tooing and froing between the Houses. I have always thought the Lords the smarter House – though it has gone rather downhill in the last decade.

Member

dt, I have a draft recently downloaded. It’s still online – search for “draft consumer rights bill”.

Member

And that is why I know the Act as signed off is not available : )

Member

So how exactly can I enforce my digital rights when the company I’mu using isn’t base in the UK and has no office here either? I’m guessing I can’t.

Member

Good point, William. The Consumer Rights Act cannot protect us if we deal with off-shore traders. Sometimes there is no alternative, but the risks should be made better known and if they are advertising in UK media [including the internet], or trading on a platform like Amazon marketplace, there should be a clear warning that normal consumer rights do not apply.

Member

I think a good reason if going abroad to go to the EU as there is a nascent system for cross-border resolution AFAIR.

Member

What is needed is more clarity and less ambiguity when consumers are sold faulty goods. The present Sale of Goods Act is too open to dispute between retailer and consumer. The new Act should be simplified so that consumers are made more aware of their rights without the added obscurity and confusion that often accompanies legal jargon.

Member

Too right, Beryl. Personally, I cannot believe there isn’t going to be a continuation of the usual dialogue: “you broke it”, “you left it running too long”, “it’s a toaster – it’s not meant for muffins”, “you set the temperature too high”; and, ultimately: “at that price, what do you expect?”.

As well as consumers being made more aware of their rights, it is essential that retailers and their staff should be made completely aware of their customers’ rights.

Member

We also need to make consumers aware that the company has rights too. Many people do misuse or otherwise abuse their products, often unintentionally, and that is not covered by warranties or the Sale of Goods Act. Nevertheless, I believe that products should be designed to withstand minor abuse, appropriate to they type of product. For example most people occasionally drop a mobile phone but not a TV.

If consumers are aware of their rights that will help them and the retailers.

There is good evidence that retail staff need compulsory basic training in consumers’ rights.

Member

I was recently sold a wrong top up voucher for my payasyougo mobile so I returned it and requested an exchange. I was met with the usual “no we don’t exchange vouchers” etc etc. Meantime a queue of irate customers was gradually building up as I stood my ground, finally stating “You sold me the wrong voucher and your refusal to exchange it contravenes my consumer rights.” The assistant immediately disappeared into a back room to speak with the store manager and returned with the correct voucher, much to the relief of the people patiently waiting in the queue behind.

It sometimes helps if you smile and tell them you are a member of Which?

Member

Did this new law do anything useful like make companies display a contact phone number on their websites. I’ve been trying to find a contact number for sky for 10 mins and still no luck. And I refuse to use the ripoff websites offering their own numbers as a companies contact number.

Member

This page has contact numbers for Sky: contactus.sky.com/uk

Member

Ah, I see, they’re not displayed by default you need to click on the prefer to speak to us option. I still think that should be changed.

Thank you anyway.

Member

Too many companies on the internet make it very difficult to find their contact details especially their phone numbers and email addresses.

Customers should have an easy choice of how they wish to contact the company and not be just presented with their online form to fill in.

Member

Web-forms have replaced email addresses for many companies, making it difficult to keep track of correspondence.

Phone numbers have been hidden or even disappeared from websites now that companies cannot use numbers that generate revenue for customer services.

It is only recently that I have appreciated that the CEO contact details are in fact the new Customer Services. 🙂
http://www.ceoemail.com

Member

will are digital rights change,so that we are no longer renting things we have really brought(especially as the price paid is normally the same or more than the physical version eg book or cd vs kindle download music download),so that we own all the digital stuff we have paid for? and has there been any clarification of what happens to digital collections,like say ebooks, or music downloads so we can bequeath them as we would a cd or book collection after we have passed on?also,currentlypeople have had their entire kindle collection,that they could have paid a lot of money for deleted when their Amazon accounts (for example)have been closed for unintentional breaches of t&c’s,this cannot be done to physical collections,which may have cost more than a physical collection would!

Member

I think you’ll find that you haven’t bought the content, only the non-transferable right to access it. It’s probaby buried away in the terms & conditions. Although it’s well known, and I have seen many articles about it, the sellers don’t exactly draw it to purchasers’ attention. Don’t forget also that VAT is payable on e-books whereas paper versions are exempt. It would be difficult to stop you handing over your Kindle to somebody else together with your passwords.

Member

i know that digital content is rented,that is what i want to change- if i pay for almost anything else,i own it outright.that is what i hope has been changed by the new consumer rights,that digital is like everything else that i pay for in that i own it,im not renting it!

Member

I agree with you in principle but this is a difficult topic to get right. When you buy a book, you don’t actually own the content; only the medium on which the content is printed, i.e. the paper and the ink. With digital content, you are typically allowed to make copies for personal use. I think that the law should be changed to allow you to give away your copies of the content to someone else (whether you sell it or give it for free it doesn’t matter), just as you are free to give or sell a book you’ve owned. Of course, the content owner needs to be satisfied that when you’ve transferred your digital purchase to someone else, you’ve also deleted all copies of the content from all of your devices. I think the technical difficulty in ensuring this is done is what is preventing the digital content sellers from allowing you to treat digital content like a traditional book or CD. I don’t think this difficulty is insurmountable, and I hope one day we will indeed be able to use digital media just like a paper book or CD. Until then, I refuse to buy any content that is protected by DRM.

Member

I suppose it might be possible for transfers [and inheritances] to be handled through the publisher/supplier with simultaneous recall [or disablement] of the original content; however, I can’t believe there wouldn’t be an administration charge making it unviable.

Member

I am still concerned that depending on the product 30 days is NOT long enough to determine the Item is faulty. Also reasonable expected durability should be strengthened e.g. a TV, washing machine etc. one would expect to last much longer than 12 months without breakdown.

Member

The 30 day period is the time allowed to reject faulty goods. Giving this figure is a considerable improvement over what we had before, which was ‘a reasonable period’ or some similarly unhelpful statement.

If a product breaks down, we have the warranty to protect us, provided that the fault is not caused by misuse, abuse or fair wear and tear. Unfortunately, what constitutes fair wear and tear is still not defined as far as I am aware. With a mechanical appliance such as a washing machine it would be easy to include a washing cycle counter and put information about the designed lifetime on the same label that shows energy ratings etc.

Outside the warranty period I expect we will still have to argue our case with retailers that deny that they have any responsibility for faulty goods. My view remains that we should be looking for products with better warranties because it is generally fairly easy to get a repair or replacement in the warranty period, in my experience. It would be a great help if Which? would tell us the length of the warranty for each product it tests, alongside the other information provided.

Member

The new Act should stipulate a minimum warrantee period for different categories of goods. Only then can consumers be assured of durability and reliability of a product. It would then deter manufacturers from churning out cheap inferior goods with little or no warrantee. For example, a washing machine warrantee should be made to last for a minimum of XX years and a fridge for a minimum XX of years. As Wavechange has already advocated this may involve Consumer Affairs Dept. liaising with Which? and/or Trading Standards to establish a realistic minimum life span for each category of goods.

The key wording in this respect is I think MINIMUM life span.

Member

I would strongly support this, Beryl. I particularly like the idea of having a stated MINIMUM lifespan because that provides an encouragement to offer something better, and a collaborative effort is the way to go forward.

I suggest that kitchen appliances we should be working towards a ten year warranty. Car manufacturers have moved to warranties of three years or longer, and there is a lot more that can go wrong with a car than any washing machine or fridge.

If a manufacturer has to foot the bill for repairs then the common practice of making goods that are difficult to repair and contain substandard components will have to cease for companies to remain profitable. It has been said that products with a ten year warranty would be much more expensive. I am not convinced that this is the case. If goods last longer any increased cost will soon be recovered.

Member

That is quite true and in a properly working market economy not everyone will wait until their appliance has got old or packed-up before they get a new one; many will still want to upgrade to a a new model with better features or more economical performance. Short warranties [coupled with denial of SoGA rights] aimed at forcing people to replace prematurely or ripping them off for repairs is a bad business model. One of the problems these days is that manufacturers and retailers feel no shame at being exposed in Which? or the media.

Member

Couldn’t agree more Beryl.

If a government website stated minimum life spans for products, there would be less disputes with retailers. Most retailers have the internet in their shops these days.

Member

It wouldn’t be too difficult to categorise products into small electricals, for example (kettles, toasters etc) and large electricals (TV’s, computers etc.) large white goods, (fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers etc.) Each category requiring a different MINIMUM warrantee period. It would not be very practical or realistic to implement a MINIMUM warrantee period at an individual level I wouldn’t wager Wavechange. As you have stated it switches the onus more in the direction of the manufacturer.

Member

Beryl – I have just had a look at the John Lewis website. All the electrical goods they sell have a minimum of a two year warranty except TVs, which have five year cover. They currently list 70 kitchen appliances that have a five year warranty, either as standard or by registering them after purchase.

I had a bad experience with JL a couple of years ago, when they lost an order. Recently I had a very frustrating experience, but at least I now have a laptop with a three year warranty rather than only one year cover. It is not a good start but I will probably buy from JL again to secure better warranties.

I believe the time is right to push for MINIMUM warranties, which would make it unnecessary for retailers to offer additional cover.

There is not much point in having a long warranty for smartphones because the technology is advancing so fast.

Member

I think that is a practical way forward Beryl. However, I think there needs to be room in the system for products that meet a market need for cheapness or short life-cycles. Landlords, for example, who include white goods in their lets would probably not be interested in ten-year warranties. My mother wanted a cheap and simple washing machine for light use so she got the most basic one from Argos. Frankly if our kettle blew up tomorrow we wouldn’t fret over it because it cost under £10 in Tesco’s and we could have a replacement in under half an hour.

Member

John – I have a friend with rental property and between lets he often replaces furniture and appliances as well as redecorating the property. We are also frequently told that a substantial proportion of appliances at council recycling facilities are still in working condition.

While acknowledging that many make no attempt to claim under the Sale of Goods Act for goods outside warranty and even replace appliances that are still in good working order, isn’t it time to become more responsible for the environmental consequences of our lifestyle?

I can understand that a single elderly person does not require a washing machine capable of the demands that a large family might put on it, but my answer is to keep the warranty the same but limit the number of cycles covered by the warranty.

Member

Yes, I go along with that. I think the overall principle is worth aiming for and a bit of fine tuning will make for a practical scheme. A Retail Warranties Bill should be a priority in the new Parliament.

Our local council organises electrical goods disposal days when they encourage people to bring along unwanted electrial appliances, in any condition, for reuse and recycling and they have a sophisticated system for either reconditioning and passing them on to a charity for resale or dismantling them and recovering all their components for recycling. I believe similar action takes place at the permanent waste disposal and recycling centres. Unfortunately a lot of smaller appliances go straight in the wheelie bin because it’s not worth making the journey to the disposal point and a lot of charity shops won’t take them. Incentivising durability has to be a prime objective and longer warranties is probably the only way to do it.

Member

Off-topic but some charities will take electrical goods these days, inspecting and PAT-testing them before resale. A local charity shop said they were short of computer leads, especially mains leads. I was able to round up a boxful and it had not even occurred to me that they were of any value.

I would like to see people using recycling facilities put a label on electrical goods indicating what – if anything – is wrong with them. Reuse is better than recycling.

Member

Perhaps products should be graded according to their life expectancy. Then there would be a market for cheaper products.

Member

Wavechange, the JL example should become statutory. However, their 5 year ‘warrantee’ on TV’s does not guarantee you a refund or a replacement, only a repair, unless this has changed in recent years. I am not sure whether the same applies to laptops as I too purchased a new laptop from JL last year with a 3 year warrantee. This anomaly would need to be clarified before any legislation comes into force.

Member

Beryl – I would prefer to have a decent manufacturer’s warranty, rather than leaving this to the retailer. If retailers are offering different warranties, it is harder to compare prices. Both manufacturers and retailers can go out of business, but manufacturers seem more durable. 🙂

If a kettle or a toaster breaks during the warranty, it is now more common to receive a new one than a repair, simply because many modern products are not designed to be repaired. For example, the element of a modern kettle is part of the base of the kettle rather than an exchangeable part.

For a more expensive product, hopefully we can expect a repair. If the model is obsolete, we might be offered a partial refund, which could be no more than the secondhand value of the product – and much less than it would cost to replace.

Member

Wavechange, I agree your comment the onus must always rest with the manufacturer. As discussed at length in previous comments, where it can be proven to be an inherent fault, the consumer ought still be given the choice whether to accept a repair, a replacement or a refund irrespective of the age of the product. This clause should be included in any new legislation.

Member

Having read the relevant part of the new Act, the consumer could still be offered a paltry payment if goods fail after the warranty has expired but within the period covered by the legislation. If a spare part was not available, the retailer could discharge their liability by offering the secondhand value of the goods, as set out in 4(a) below. Don’t forget that there is no requirement for companies to hold spares for their products.

23 Right to repair or replacement
(1) This section applies if the consumer has the right to repair or replacement (see section 19(3) and (4)).

(2) If the consumer requires the trader to repair or replace the goods, the trader must—
(a) do so within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, and
(b) bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so (including in particular the cost of any labour, materials or postage).

(3) The consumer cannot require the trader to repair or replace the goods if that remedy (the repair or the replacement)—
(a) is impossible, or
(b) is disproportionate compared to the other of those remedies.

(4) Either of those remedies is disproportionate compared to the other if it imposes costs on the trader which, compared to those imposed by the other, are unreasonable, taking into account—
(a) the value which the goods would have if they conformed to the contract,
(b) the significance of the lack of conformity, and
(c) whether the other remedy could be effected without significant inconvenience to the consumer.

As consumers we tend to think about legislation as being there to protect us, but a company will see the same legislation as being a way of limiting their liabilities.

Member

Beryl – Apologies for not agreeing with you about the need for more consumer protection for an INHERENT FAULT.

I believe that multiple reports of premature failure due the same problem should be taken as possible evidence of inherent faults. Many of us are familiar with reading reports of problems on websites. To confirm that a product has an inherent fault, all that is needed is for an expert to look at multiple samples and establish (1) that most failures have been caused by the same fault and (2) confirm that misuse/abuse is unlikely to be a factor.

The Consumer Rights Act in not effective yet but it still needs to be updated. 🙁

Member
Shaun says:
29 March 2015

It doesn’t matter what laws are made if there is nobody to help you fight for your rights. I purchased a land rover discovery in October and it has been plagued with problems ever since. It has spent the last two and a half months in 4 local garages, the dealer has been less than helpful leaving me with over £4000 in incurred costs. I have spent hundreds on legal advice. I have spoken repeatedly with trading standards (they’re not interested) I have spoken to citizens advice (go see a solicitor). Solicitors advice “unless your willing to gamble further £1000’s to take this to court which you may or may not win, trade the car in at a loss and right it off ! ” oh and no one seems to have mentioned that the government have nearly tripled the cost of taking a person to county court in the last fortnight!!!!

Member

If you are a Which? member it might be worth using the services of Which? Legal.

Member

From the new Consumer Rights Act:

“9. Goods to be of satisfactory quality

(1) Every contract to supply goods is to be treated as including a term that the quality of the goods is satisfactory.

(2) The quality of goods is satisfactory if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking account of—
(a) any description of the goods,
(b) the price or other consideration for the goods (if relevant), and
(c) all the other relevant circumstances (see subsection (5)).

(3) The quality of goods includes their state and condition; and the following aspects (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—
(a) fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied;
(b) appearance and finish;
(c) freedom from minor defects;
(d) safety;
(e) durability.”

As with the existing Sale of Goods Act, we have some points that are not clarified:

:: There is reference to a ‘reasonable person’. I assume that this must be an independent expert, since the customer and retailer might disagree or not have sufficient knowledge to decide on the matter. In this case, who pays for the services of the expert.

:: The requirement for durability is still mentioned, but without qualification. Sections 2 (b) and 2 (c) are clearly relevant, so we can infer that more expensive products can be more reliable than cheaper goods. That accords with common sense but does not give the consumer an indication of how long a washing machine or freezer might be expected to last.

Subsection (5), referred to in 2(c) states that The relevant circumstances mentioned in subsection (2)(c) include any public statement about the specific characteristics of the goods made by the trader, the producer or any representative of the trader or the producer.. I presume that a public statement would be advertising. That could be very helpful in dealing with misleading claims. For example Miele was advertising dishwashers: “We don’t just hope for reliability. We test for it. Miele. Tested to last 20 years”, whereas the warranty could be as little as two years. Thankfully the ASA put a stop Miele making this claim in the UK.

I remain unconvinced that the new Consumer Rights Act is going to be a great help to consumers who have a product that fails outside warranty.

Member

“Reasonable person” does not state they need to be qualified to assess the product. A reputable brand of washing machine, mid-priced, that failed in 3 years of normal use would, I believe, be judged as not durable by a “reasonable person”.

We need facts to back up claims under durability. I believe this is one of the most important elements of this law that we need to make proper use of. That needs Which?, its sister organisations, or other competent consumer organisations, to do the ground work to assess what reasonable durability should be for different groups and price categories of common products. Not a qick job, but unless we tackle it we will make no progress. Then we will have firmer grounds to deal with retailers.

Of course longer warranties would relieve the need to think of using the law, but they are not here (yet) and we need to pursue our rights for redress in the meantime. Come on Which? As the consumer’s champion should this not be one of your priorities?

Member

The new Consumer Rights Act does not help us much with goods that are outside warranty period. I feel we should be pushing for longer warranties. Which? did a good job in alerting members and the public to the excessive cost of extended warranties. Maybe Which? can help here by encouraging us to look for products that do have longer warranties and making us aware of retailers that offer longer warranties at no extra price.

I will ask again for Which? to tell us about the length of warranty when testing products. Manufacturers might offer a warranty promotion or retailers could give longer warranties, but knowing the standard warranty is useful information when choosing new products.

Member

Thanks for doing the digging wc.

“Reasonable person” IS old law English and specifically used as it rules out “experts” .

Member

That’s quite right. Reference was sometimes made “to the man on the top deck of the Clapham omnibus” meaning an ordinary person who is not gifted with special knowledge or attributes but is capable of applying common-sense reasoning to an issue. The courts have usually supported the concept of the reasonable person’s approach to a case and ruled against commercial language or practices that seek to limit liability through technical complexity or expertise. They won’t support frivolous, vexatious or extremely prejudiced claims though. The unfortunate fact is that hardly any SoGA claims came to court and it is unlikely that many CRA claims will arise now that the cost of litigation is prohibitive for the ordinary man or woman in the street. I really would like to see some sort of “durability” framework drawn up using consumer organisations, trading standards, trade bodies, and others, and then find a test case in which it could be exercised.

Member

Thanks to the three of you. I have long been unsure about the term ‘reasonable person’. Can either of you find a link that we could use in future discussion?

I would like to establish whether an owner can be regarded as a reasonably person or does it have to be someone impartial. For example, in a motor accident, the opinion of a passenger carries less weight than an independent witness.

I think we should keep pushing until Which? gives us advice on how to pursue claims for goods that fail outside the warranty period. It would be good to see some test cases that we could relate to. The goal should be to help the public understand when they have a reasonable claim.

Member

I suppose that if a dispute under the Consumer Rights Act over the failure of goods outside the warranty but within the reasonable life of the product actually came to court the judge would decide what a reasonable person would consider to be appropriate durability. That might or might not correspond with the view of either party to the action.

There is some information in the Which? consumer rights guidance on using the small claims procedure:
http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/when-should-i-use-the-small-claims-court-

The term “reasonable” is used in several places without definition so it all comes down to the view of the mediator or judge if a dispute proceeds to that stage. There is also a slightly worrying section there about getting an expert opinion to support the claim.

Personally, as a starting point, I consider that a durability claim on a domestic article should be perfectly reasonable over a period upto double the length of the warranty. I see the warranty as the manufaturer’s way of saying that this is the period over which we are prepared to take total [but not necessarily undisputed!] responsibility for anything that might go wrong with this product as a result of defective design or manufacture; beyond that we will consider what is reasonable having regard to the nature of the fault. Which is where the argument begins. Most manufacturers would take the view at the outset that the warranty is conclusive and the absolute limit of their liability, but if the case went to a legal claim they might get over-ruled and forced to concede. That is the consumer’s gamble.

With most appliances some parts will last almost indefinitely if used correctly; other parts will wear out or just fail. The manufacturer presumably bases the warranty period on the likely lifetime of the most vulnerable part. If the plastic switch on a kettle breaks off, the kettle is useless whereas the rest of the appliance could give years of useful service. It probably wouldn’t be worth while going to law over an ordinary kettle but a top-of-the-range model could cost over £100 to replace if it broke down prematurely. Until there are a number of claims going through the judicial process, rather than being settled out of court, we can only speculate.

Member

I think this puts the ball squarely in the court of Which? as we know that the reviews section provides quite a few unhappy purchasers, and Which? has the money and the legal experts to fight a few cases.

The question might be why has it avoided this active role to date. AFAIK there is nothing in the Articles prohibiting this course of action.

As for expectations of durability I suspect the continental organisations might be useful for the bigger ticket items. On a smaller scale perhaps a group action using the Logiks Steamer as a start – anything that seems to have trouble lasting six months must surely be badly designed and/or badly made.

A few wins or even defeats would provide some basic case law.

Member

Which? Your input on beginning to help consumers on product durability would be useful. As would giving legal help for some legitimate claims We need to make the Consumer Rights Act work for consumers in practice, not just on paper. Perhaps when retailers realise that the law will be applied they will take a more sensible attitude towards genuine consumer problems.

Member

It may prove useful to question the following definition of ‘reasonable’ according to my crossword thesaurus when next following up a consumer complaint!!!

Am I being Sensible Rational Logical Fair Just Equitable Intelligent Wise Level-headed Practical
Realistic Sound Valid Commonsensical Tenable Plausible Credible Believable Appropriate
Suitable Acceptable Satisfactory Average Adequate Tolerable Passable OK?

Where is the Clarity Lucidity Precision Coherence Transparency Simplicity Sharpness Clearness
Crispness Definition Limpidity Translucence? The opposite of which bears a strange resemblance to ‘Reasonable’ in the eyes of the new Consumer Law; eg Cloudiness Vagueness Blurriness Confused, which I remain totally so NOW REST MY CASE!

Member

In another Conversation I pointed out that Apple mentions the Sale of Goods Act on its website. I have checked some other websites and not managed to find similar information. I have been very impressed by the reliability of Apple computers but my MacBook Pro laptop developed various faults. I read about a known problem affecting the model on Which? Tech Daily and contacted Apple. Tests suggested that the fault was not the known problem, but they have repaired my three and a half year old laptop free of charge. I have been using Apple desktop and laptop computers at home since 1992 and that is the first time I have had a breakdown other than software issues that I have been able to fix myself.

I have relations who have also been treated generously by Apple and over the years I met people who have been treated generously by various retailers and manufacturers. In most cases they knew nothing about the Sale of Goods Act.