Consumer Rights Act 2015—remedies and enforcement of rights

How will consumers’ rights be enforced under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015)?

Paul Jonson, managing partner of Pannone Corporate, explores the remedies to be made available to consumers and how their rights will be enforced.

Original news

Consumer Rights Act 2015, LNB News 27/03/2015 144

What remedies are available to consumers for breaches of the duties set out in CRA 2015? How does CRA 2015 regulate and enforce traders’ duties?

The remedies are the main change being introduced by CRA 2015. Consumers will have ‘short cuts to compensation’, as it were. Currently, if goods are, say, of unsatisfactory quality, a consumer may reject them and ‘return’ them (the onus is on the business to collect them) provided he has not kept for them for an unreasonable length of time, which is a nebulous concept. CRA 2015 brings clarity and certainty for consumers.

If goods, a consumer has:

  • an early right to reject—30 days and obtain full refund
  • the right to one repair or replacement within the 30 days (business must bear all necessary costs including postage, labour and materials unless disproportionate to the cost of other remedies available)
  • thereafter, the right to a price reduction or the final right to reject and receive a refund (with a deduction for use by the consumer) outside the 30 days if no acceptable repair/replacement within 30 days—the time allowed depends on the life of the goods in question

If services are supplied but not within a reasonable time, or at a reasonable charge or to a reasonable standard, depending on the problems, a consumer has:

  • the right to have the services repeated
  • the right to a price reduction

The remedies for digital content are addressed below.

Will any part of CRA 2015 affect law firms themselves and, if so, how?

CRA 2015 applies to law firms as they are traders as defined in CRA 2015—they provide services and some of their clients, at least, may be consumers as defined under CRA 2015.

Are any of these new or different from existing consumer rights?

Yes—there is a clear timetable and procedure for the right to reject/repair or replacement/refund or price reduction. In terms of services supplied, there are new rights to have a service repeated or a price reduction. Consumers are further protected, as liability for the following will no longer be able to be excluded:

  • goods—breach of the requirements to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, match a sample, match a model seen; or incorrect installation of goods, non-conformity of goods if digital content not conform
  • digital content—breach of the requirements to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, match its description pre contract info form part of contract; and trader’s right to supply
  • services—breach of the requirement to be of reasonable care and skill

How do consumers enforce their rights under CRA 2015?

Ultimately via the courts as usual. Various public bodies can enforce consumer law and their powers range from criminal prosecutions to injunctions. The main ones are Trading Standards and the Consumer Markets Authority (previously the Office of Fair Trading). Enforcement orders compelling cessation of non- compliance with consumer law are obtained via the Enterprise Act 2002. This benefits consumers in general rather than compensating an individual consumer.

What roles do the courts play under the provisions of CRA 2015?

Ultimately, they enforce CRA 2015—but CRA 2015 is seeking to enable consumers to avoid this by setting out clear obligations on traders.

Does CRA 2015 have any cross-border implications?

CRA 2015 will apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are also specific rules which apply to Scotland only.

How does CRA 2015 affect the sale of digital products?

CRA 2015 applies to ‘digital content’, defined as data which are produced and supplied in digital form (as opposed to digital products per se). Digital content has to be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose and match its description. A consumer has the following remedies available depending on the problem with the digital content:

  • the right to repair or replacement (again, businesses must bear all necessary costs unless disproportionate to the cost of other remedies)
  • the right to a price reduction
  • the right to a refund (no need to return the data by deleting it, etc)

There is no right to reject and there is no way to return digital content.

If the data supplied damages a device or other digital content, the business must pay to the consumer the cost of replacing the device or digital content which is damaged. Those providing the service of delivering digital content, eg ISPs and or mobile phone providers, are not trading in digital content and are not caught.

When do the provisions come into force?

CRA 2015 is expected to come into force in October 2015, with the exception of the provisions on secondary ticketing sales, which should come into force in May 2015.

What are the implications for dispute resolution lawyers?

There is no carve-out for lawyers. If their clients are consumers as defined, their clients can avail themselves of the remedies set out above.

If their clients are traders which supply to consumers, they need to advise their clients about the changes and the implication of the changes, particularly in relation to their clients’ customer complaints procedures.

Interviewed by Nicola Laver.

The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.

First published on Lexis®PSL Commercial. Click here for a free one week trial of Lexis®PSL.


 

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