Consumer Rights Act: T minus 2 days—how does it apply to services?

How reasonable are you?

How unreasonable are you?

Or perhaps you think reasonableness is a load of old bunkum and 'good faith' is the future?

Whatever your stance, and whether you like it or not, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 includes the somewhat nebulous concept of 'being reasonable' in spades. It pops up in section after section, particularly in connection with the provision of services.

So if you answered 'yes' to the first question, I'll hazard that you'll be ... well ... reasonably pleased.

(Which is, of course, very reasonable of you.)

I suppose that it's no surprise. The law struggles to cater for every eventuality so this handy concept has been dusted off and brought out of the legislative drafter's toolbox to allow for maximum flexibility and minimum fuss.

So what are the new rules on services? To be fair, they look very familiar:

  • Reasonable care and skill: every contract to supply a service contains an implied term that the trader must perform the service with reasonable care and skill
  • Reasonable price: if the consumer has not paid for the service and the contract does not expressly fix a price or a way to fix it then the contract includes an implied term that the consumer must pay a reasonable price for the service, and
  • Reasonable time: if the contract does not expressly fix the time for the service to be performed, and does not say how it is to be fixed, the contract will include a term that the trader must perform the service within a reasonable time

The more noticeable changes, which come into effect this Thursday (1 October), relate to remedies that are available to consumers such as the:

  • right to require repeat performance, and
  • right to a price reduction

The right to repeat performance is a right to require the trader to perform the service again, to the extent necessary to ensure conformity with the contract.

If the consumer requires such repeat performance (and where it is not impossible), the trader:

  • must provide it within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, and
  • must bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so (in particular, this would include the cost of any labour or materials)

As for the right to a price reduction, this is a right to have the price reduced by an appropriate amount (including the right to receive a refund for anything already paid over the reduced amount). The amount may, where appropriate, be the full amount of the price.

Bear in mind that a consumer who has the right to a price reduction and the right to require repeat performance is only entitled to a price reduction if they can't require repeat performance (because it is impossible), or because they have required repeat performance, but the trader hasn't done it within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer.

Finally, the remedies do not affect a consumer's other rights eg a right to seek damages, although the consumer can't be greedy and recover twice for the same loss.

Fair enough.

So what do you think? Do these new rules clarify the law? Or do they just make it more complicated? Do let us know below. In the meantime, keep an eye out for tomorrow's post on how the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies to digital content.

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