The Consumer Rights Act became law on 1 October 2015 and simplified, strengthened and modernised UK consumer legislation. The new legislation consolidates three big pieces of consumer law – the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. Whilst some of the language hasn’t changed that much, the remedies have, so let’s drill down to what the changes mean and how they will affect those biomass and solid fuel heating appliances, fuels and services industry.
Firstly goods, as an installer or service professional you have to ensure that these are:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for any particular purpose
- must match descriptions or samples
- be correctly installed (where agreed as part of the contract).
Where goods don’t meet the above the consumer will now have a tiered remedy system that includes:
- A 30 day short-term right to reject where a full refund can be sought and the refund must be given within 14 days of it being agreed (this right does not apply to faulty installations).
- If the consumer chooses not to exercise the above right or is outside of the 30 days then they are entitled to claim for a repair or replacement, but the installer or tradesperson will only be given one opportunity to repair the goods, after that if the goods are still faulty then they can be rejected.
- If a repair or replacement is not available, for example because an item is no longer in stock, then the consumer has the final right to reject the goods.
- If the faulty goods caused additional damage to persons or property then there is a right to additional compensation.
As for evidence, if the consumer uses the short-term right to reject option they must demonstrate that the goods are faulty. Within six months the consumer also has the right to ask for a repair, replacement, price reduction or even the final right to reject faulty goods and the law assumes that the goods were faulty at the time of delivery. After six months the consumer must prove the goods were faulty at the time of purchase, this is known as the ‘reverse burden of proof’.
So, what about services?
Again the language is familiar, as a professional in your industry you must ensure the job must is carried out with reasonable care and skill. Anything written or verbally agreed with the consumer is binding. If no price was agreed beforehand, then only a reasonable price can be charged. Likewise, if no specific time for completion was agreed then you are obliged to carry it out within a reasonable time period.
The main change here is the remedy, consumers will have the right to a ‘repeat performance’ if the job isn’t done correctly the first time, or they can ask for a price reduction. Whilst, you the tradesperson or business, can make repeated attempts at getting the job done correctly you have to ensure it doesn’t cause significant inconvenience to the customer. If the job cannot be carried out satisfactorily then the customer can seek a price reduction that leads to a full refund.
Lastly, unfair terms, previously business to consumer contracts were subject to the old Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and this included all those items of small print in consumer contracts. The new Act has replaced them with a requirement for terms and contract notices to be fair making it easier for consumers to challenge hidden fees and charges.
A term is unfair if ‘contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer’. In other words if what you say is all in your favour and not the consumer’s then it will probably be regarded as unfair.
The new Consumer Rights Act details a blacklist of terms that will always be unfair and a ‘grey list’ that highlights terms that may be potentially unfair. The grey list is a list of terms where a suspicion of unfairness arises if a term has the object or effect of weighting terms unfairly against the consumer.
Stephen McCluskey, Managing Director at Which? Trusted Traders, said:
“Consumer law was crying out to be brought up to date to cope with the requirements and demands of today’s consumers. Getting a refund or repair and understanding contracts should now all be much simpler.
“Business and traders must ensure their teams are aware of the changes so they’re not caught out short-changing their customers or breaking the law.”
To support the new legislation HETAS members endorsed by Which? Trusted Traders will receive a free guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 or you can visit: www.which.co.uk/
For more information on Which? Trusted Traders please visit: www.hetas.co.uk/which-trusted-traders or call 0117 4566031.