Key Messages:

  • SESCAB is a registered charity offering advice on a range of topics
  • Help and advice is available so don’t suffer in silence

Reminder:  What is The South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice service

  • South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau is a registered charity which provides free, independent and confidential advice to residents of Lichfield District.
  • We provide information and advice on a wide variety of subjects, including but not limited to;

o   Debt

o   welfare benefits

o   housing

o   consumer matters

o   immigration

o   relationships & family

o   taxes

And what are we here to discuss today?

 

Knowing your consumer rights.  Every time you buy goods, whether at the shops, at home or online you are protected with statutory rights. This is due to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

When did it come into force?

The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1 October 2015 which meant from that date new consumer rights became law covering:

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

How did these changes affect existing laws?

 

Most of these changes were important updates to existing laws. But two new areas of law were also introduced.

  • For the first time rights on digital content have been set out in legislation. The Act gives consumers a clear right to the repair or replacement of faulty digital content, such as online film and games, music downloads and e-books. The law here had been unclear and this change has brought us up to date with how digital products have evolved.
  • There are now also new, clear rules for what should happen if a service is not provided with reasonable care and skill or as agreed. For example, the business that provided the service must bring it into line with what was agreed with the customer or, if this is not practical, must give some money back.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stands alongside Regulations to create a greatly simplified body of consumer law. Taken together, they set out the basic rules which govern how consumers buy and businesses sell to them in the UK.

So what are my rights?

Well there are slight variations depending on how you purchased the goods.

So say we’ve bought something in a shop –

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

During the expected lifespan of your product you’re entitled to the following:

 

Up to 30 days – if your goods are faulty you can get a refund

 

Up to 6 months – if it can’t be repaired or replaced then you’re entitled to a refund in most cases.

 

Up to 6 years – if the goods do not last a reasonable length of time you may be entitled to some money back.

 

You DON’T have a legal right to a refund or replacement just because you change your mind. BUT… please ask a store about their returns policy as they may be able to help in-store.

What about goods ordered at home –

The Consumer Contracts regulations 2013 says that you have up to 14 days after receiving your goods, in most cases, you can change your mind and get a full refund. In addition, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 with all the same rights you have when purchasing from a shop will still apply.

What about services that you ordered at home or in a shop?

The Consumer Rights Act says that you can ask the service provider to repeat or fix the service if it’s not carried out with reasonable care and skill, or get some money back if it can’t be fixed. If a price hasn’t been agreed upfront, what you’re being asked to pay must be reasonable and finally, if a time hasn’t been agreed up front it must be carried out within a reasonable time.

 

Additionally, where services are ordered at home the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 say that in most cases, you can cancel within 14 days. If you agree the service will start within this time, you may be charged for what you use.

I understand there are new consumer rights relating to Digital Content?

Again, the Consumer Contracts regulations 2013 says that you have a 14 day right to change your mind and get a full refund on your digital content. You do not have this right to cancel once a download has started provided you have been told this and have acknowledged this.

 

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says digital content must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. So, if your digital content is faulty, you’re entitled to a repair or a replacement.

If the fault can’t be fixed, or it hasn’t been fixed within a reasonable time without significant inconvenience, you can get some, or all of your money back. If you can show the fault has damaged your device and reasonable care and skill hasn’t been used, you may be entitled to a repair or compensation.

What’s the difference between rights and company policy?

All of the rights discussed are your statutory rights, they are different from Company policy. Company Policy will often go beyond what the law requires but must not offer less. So, whatever the company policy says, it will not detract from your statutory rights.

Are there different rules?

Yes, if the goods you purchased from a shop are faulty your rights referred to earlier are the responsibility of the retailer not the manufacturer

I’ve heard about Alternative Dispute Resolution, what is this?

Alternative Dispute Resolution is now available to all businesses to help when a dispute with a consumer cannot be settled directly. Before the Consumer Rights Act became law, this service had only been available in certain sectors. A business which is involved in a dispute will now need to make the consumer aware of a relevant certified Alternative Dispute Resolution provider. The business should also let the consumer know whether or not they are prepared to use the Alternative Dispute Resolution provider to deal with the dispute. However, a business does not have to use Alternative Dispute Resolution unless it operates in a sector where existing legislation makes it mandatory (for example, financial services).

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline (formerly known as Consumer Direct) if you need more help with a consumer problem.  You can find the telephone number on our website citizensadvice.org.uk.

How can the consumer helpline can help our listeners?

The helpline adviser can:

  • give you practical and impartial advice on how to resolve your consumer problem
  • tell you the law which applies to your situation
  • pass information about complaints on to Trading Standards (you can’t do this yourself)

However, the adviser can’t:

  • make a complaint for you
  • take legal action on your behalf

Before you contact the helpline

Before you contact the helpline, you should have a pen and paper ready.

To help the adviser give you the most relevant advice, you should be ready to give them as much of the following information as you can:

  • brief details of your problem, eg when you paid for the item or the service, how much you paid, how you paid for it, whether you did so in a shop or online
  • the seller or trader’s name and address
  • what you’ve done so far to try to solve the issue
  • your reference number (if you’ve already contacted the helpline about the same problem).

So how do I report a trader to the Trading Standards?

You should report a company to Trading Standards if, for example:

  • they misled you into buying their products or services
  • they sold you unsafe or dangerous items
  • they didn’t carry out the work properly, for example, their work left your home in a dangerous state
  • they sold you fake or counterfeit items
  • they pressured you to buy something you didn’t want to buy
  • they sold you a car that wasn’t ‘roadworthy’ (it would cause danger if it was on the road)

And I do that through the citizen’s advice?

Yes, Call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline and tell them you want to report a trader to Trading Standards. The consumer helpline will assess your problem and pass it on to Trading Standards if it’s appropriate.

And what will Trading Standards do?

Trading Standards will decide whether to investigate your problem. If they do, they might contact you for more information and evidence. Depending on what they find out, they might take action to stop the trader from acting unfairly. For example they might educate the trader about the law or take legal action against them to stop them from trading completely.

Even if Trading Standards don’t contact you, they might use your evidence to take action in the future.

And if someone would prefer to work by themselves?

Online resources

Look on the internet for reliable advice.

Citizen’s Advice

In addition, Citizens Advice produce a number of fact sheets which would assist you with consumer advice.

These can be found at www.adviceguide.org.uk

Reminder of how to get in touch with Citizens Advice?

 

  • Phone

 

      • Staffordshire Adviceline – 03444 111 444
      • Lines open:  Mon-Thu 9.00-5.00 and Fri 9.00-4.30 with Late night Tue and Wed 5.00-8.00pm
      • Your call should last about 10 minutes, to enable an Adviceline Assessor to take your details and establish how best we can help you.

 

  • Walk-in and Outreach sessions

 

      • Lichfield Office
        • Tue: 10.00 – 2.00 and Fri: 10.00 – 2.00
      • Burntwood Office
        • Mon: 10.00 – 2.00 and Wed: 10.00 – 2.00
      • Outreach Sessions at the Jigsaw Project
        • 72 Dimbles Lane, Lichfield, Staffs WS13 7HL
        • Tuesdays (fortnightly) 10.00 – 12.00
        • (Visit the venue to find out when the session is running)

 

  • Online

 

    • Adviceguide is on our website as a first level of assistance
  • Email Advice available for people living or working in Lichfield District.
  • Post – people can write to us at either address.

 

Wrap-up:  What message would you like to leave for listeners?

  • Please don’t assume your situation is hopeless and don’t ignore it.
  • Statutory Rights are in addition to company policy.
  • Remember the Consumer Rights Act gives you specific rights.
  • Know when to report cases to Trading Standards.

However, if you feel you are in a position where you cannot do this yourself and you are worried about how to deal with a consumer issue contact your local Citizens Advice office – we are here to help.