/ Shopping, Technology

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?


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!

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.