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Your statutory rights are not affected
A phrase all-too-often used to sprinkle statutory fairy dust over dodgy trading practices?
I'd say so.
At worst, with some companies it feels like the context is more like this:
It seems clear to me that this common phrase—'this does not affect your statutory rights'—is not fit for purpose.
Customers don’t understand it. Businesses don’t understand it. Heck, even peers of the realm struggle with it. Take Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town:
I cannot be the only person who has been a bit mystified when standing by a till and reading a notice which says, “This does not affect your statutory rights”
Others agree, from consumer guru Martin Lewis:
Seven little words, one GIANT confusion. The sign’s everywhere yet many customers and staff don’t have a clue what it means
to Chris Warner, Lead Lawyer, Policy, Advocacy and Enforcement, at Which?
I do not think anyone really knows what their statutory rights are or what that phrase means. It is not enough just to tell people that their legal rights are not affected. They need to know what those legal rights are
Enter the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which comes into force in just over three weeks.
Whilst the Act does not mention this phrase or create any updated equivalent of it, notices are now covered by this new legislation.
Section 61(4) of the Act states:
This Part [ie Part 2 on unfair terms] applies to a notice to the extent that it—(a) relates to rights or obligations as between a trader and a consumer, or (b) purports to exclude or restrict a trader’s liability to a consumer
If the Act applies, and it will to many notices which businesses use, then such notices must now be fair. Unclear and purposely impenetrable notices are likely to be found unfair if they are not expressed in plain and intelligible language.
I'd argue that the clunky 'statutory rights' saying might well now also fall foul of this new law.
So is there a solution?
The Chartered Trading Standard Institute (CTSI) believes that there is, in the form of summary boxes.
These boxes are an attempt to represent current best practice in this area and are a useful way of telling consumers what their key rights are and where to obtain further information. Traders are free to use them wherever they deem fit: in the customer’s terms and conditions, at the till or even randomly throughout a store.
Whilst the CTSI is currently consulting on the exact form of wording of them, this is the current version for buying goods in store:
More helpful? I think so.
Tempted to use them? Then check out the official suggested wording provided by Business Companion (ie the website run by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute), click here and go to the headings 'Suggested point-of sale wording' and 'Buying goods at a distance'.
Don’t forget though: you don’t have to use these summary boxes. Therefore, it is not obligatory to follow the exact wording suggested.
I think, for example, that it would useful to add a further paragraph at the bottom of any summary boxes which are used in terms and conditions which states:
The information in this summary box summarises your key rights. It is not intended to replace the contract below which you should read carefully
So what do you think? Are these notices a good idea? Are they well worded or do they need a bit of tweaking? As always, we welcome your views below.
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