Sutton Council urges businesses and residents to know their new consumer rights this Christmas

Sutton Council is urging borough businesses and residents to be aware of the new provisions in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 so that shops and consumers can avoid misunderstandings this Christmas and New Year.

A package of changes to consumer law came into force on 1 October 2015 as part of the Consumer Rights Act.

Sutton Trading Standards wants residents to understand their new rights, especially during the busy Christmas period, but which they can exercise all-year round, The new Act replaces a number of laws with regard to business-to-consumer transactions, including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, and provides consumers with greater protection than ever.

Under the Act, if a Sutton resident buys new goods from a borough retailer and finds they are faulty, they are now entitled to a full refund or to ask for the goods to be repaired. The refund can be requested up to 30 days after purchase under “the short-term right to reject”, and the money must be returned to them within 14 days.

For example, the Act could apply to someone who purchases a laptop computer as a present a week before Christmas and discovers it will not turn on because of a fault.  As they have had the laptop for fewer than 30 days they are entitled to return it to the shop for a full refund. As the fault is obvious there is no need for further testing and the trader must agree to provide a refund.

Should the laptop computer break down after less than six months, the purchaser is still entitled to a repair or replacement from the retailer. Should they still be unhappy with the laptop after it is repaired, however, they have a right to a full refund. 

But should the laptop computer break down more than six months but less than a year after purchase, the trader is entitled to reduce the refund to take into account the length of time the purchaser has had it. 

Sutton Trading Standards wants borough businesses to have a clear understanding of their additional responsibilities under the Act so that they can serve their customers well and be clear with someone demanding a refund exactly when their rights entitle them to one. Also, should a problem arise in how a business provides a service, the business knows what it may be required to do about it. 

For example, a consumer signs up to a mobile phone contract for £20 a month then learns a neighbour purchased the same package for £15, so challenges the firm, arguing that their deal is unfair. The monthly price and the texts and minutes available were clearly explained, in plain English, when the contract was agreed and were prominent and transparent in the contract. 

Under the Act, it is easier for the firm to understand what should not be left to the small print. In this case, the consumer would not be able to challenge the deal for fairness, as the terms were transparent and prominent.

Cllr Nick Emmerson, Lib Dem Lead Councillor for Sutton Council’s Trading Standards, said: “Our Trading Standards team is keen to help local businesses and residents to ensure they do not fall foul of the law this Christmas and beyond. Taking a responsible and proactive approach can help avoid difficulties further down the line, which is better both for businesses and their customers.

“Borough businesses that understand their customers’ rights under the Consumer Rights Act can also expect repeated and trouble-free custom from residents, saving time and money and having a frustration-free Christmas and New Year.

Cllr Emmerson emphasised that Sutton Trading Standards did not offer civil advice to borough residents but worked in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau.  “Residents with issues about a local trader’s goods should contact the CAB direct,” he said.

Complaints concerning a consumer’s civil rights are handled by the Citizens Advice helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or online by visiting the CAB website.

More information and advice is available for businesses and consumers on the Trading Standards Institute website.

Free and impartial business advice on a host of trading standards legislation is available on the Government-sponsored Business Companion website by clicking.

 

Explanatory Notes

The Consumer Rights Act came into force from 1 October 2015 and all purchases from this date onwards are governed by this legislation. The changes cover:

  • what should happen when goods are faulty;
  • unfair terms in a contract;
  • what happens when a business is acting in a way which is not competitive;
  • written notice for routine inspections to be given by public enforcers, such as Trading Standards; and
  • greater flexibility for public enforcers to respond to breaches of consumer law, such as seeking redress for consumers who have suffered harm.

There are also two new areas of law covering:

  • what should happen when digital content, such as online films, games or e-books is faulty, the Act now gives consumers a clear right to repair or replacement; and
  • how services should match up to what has been agreed, and what should happen when they do not or when they are not provided with reasonable care and skill, for example giving some money back if it is not practical to bring the service into line with what was agreed.
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