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Countdown to new consumer laws

Tayside solicitors, Miller Hendry, are advising local businesses to familiarise themselves with changes to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which sees consumers given new rights from 1st October. As well as updating existing laws, there are some important new areas covered, including the introduction of a 30-day period to claim a full purchase refund and, for the first time, protections on digital content purchases.

Under the new legislation consumers can now demand that sub-standard care or services are re-done or receive a price reduction and are also legally entitled to a full refund on a product that has had one failed repair or replacement within the first six months of purchasing. The Act also sets out guidelines for repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as online films, games, music downloads and e-books and any unfair or hidden terms can be challenged by consumers.

Alan Matthew, Consumer Legal Expert and Partner at Miller Hendry, comments:

“There are a number of changes and any business selling to consumers will need to be prepared.  It is important that terms and conditions are reviewed and updated as necessary.

“In future, these must be prominent and transparent, if traders want to avoid finding themselves being assessed for fairness.  So, if you have hugely detailed small print that no one could possibly read, it’s worth seeing whether you can reduce this, or at the very least making sure that there’s nothing hidden in there that the consumer should know about up-front.”

Alongside, there are also new requirements of businesses for consumer dispute resolution. The aim of the new Act is to reduce disagreement and court action and, from October, traders will have to provide the consumer with a route to Alternative Dispute Resolution through a certified scheme, which could be through their relevant trade body or similar organisation, if they cannot resolve the dispute directly.

Businesses have until 1st October to update processes and trading terms, as well as ensuring staff are full briefed. Alan explains the importance of educating staff about the changes the new legislation brings:

“It’s very important that staff are fully briefed on the extent of the new law as there are a number of far-reaching implications.  For example, where a consumer specifies a purpose when buying and is advised by a member of staff, it’s important that the goods or services are going to be suitable for that purpose; otherwise if it fails to deliver, they have a right to claim their money back.

He added:

“For suppliers of digital content, it’s important that traders ensure they are complying with the aspects of the new legislation that specifically relate to them.  In the past the law has been unclear in this area, as it failed to keep up with the huge growth and demand for digital products.”

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