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Counting down to new consumer laws

04/11/2015

Businesses are being urged to make sure they are prepared for new legislation that will give extra rights to consumers from next month.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 that comes into force on October 1 will consolidate eight pieces of separate legislation in this area.

Although most of the changes are updates to existing laws, it will introduce new rights for consumers including a 30-day period to claim a full refund on faulty goods and, for the first time, protections on digital content purchases.

Buyers will also be able to challenge unfair or hidden trading terms. Litigation expert Elisabeth Glover, a solicitor with Midlands law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, said businesses need to act before the new laws come into effect.

“There are a number of changes and any business selling to consumers will need to be prepared. It’s important that terms and conditions are reviewed and updated as necessary. In future, these must be prominent and transparent, if traders want to avoid finding themselves being assessed for fairness.

“So, if you have hugely detailed small print that no one could possibly read, it’s worth seeing whether you can reduce this, or at the very least making sure that there’s nothing hidden in there that the consumer should know about up-front.

“It’s very important that staff are fully briefed on the extent of the new law as there are a number of far-reaching implications. For example, where a consumer specifies a purpose when buying and is advised by a member of staff, it’s important that the goods or services are going to be suitable for that purpose; otherwise if it fails to deliver, they have a right to claim their money back.”

She added: “For suppliers of digital content, it’s important that traders ensure they are complying with the aspects of the new legislation that specifically relate to them. In the past the law has been unclear in this area, as it failed to keep up with the huge growth and demand for digital products.”

The aim of the new Act is to reduce disagreement and court action, but where a dispute cannot be resolved directly between the supplier and consumer, the Government is hoping that dispute resolution, which uses techniques such as mediation or arbitration, will provide a quicker and cheaper route than the courts.

From October, traders will have to provide the consumer with information about Alternative Dispute Resolution through a certified scheme, which could be through their relevant trade body or similar organisation, if they cannot resolve the dispute directly.

FBC Manby Bowdler has offices in Wolverhampton and Willenhall, as well as Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth.

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