Consumer rights bill good news for UK shoppers

A new 'Bill of Rights' for consumers means buyers can get replacements or refunds if phone apps and ebooks go wrong.

The proposals will be welcome news for UK consumers who according to estimates spend more than 59million hours a year trying to solve problems with goods or services.  

Under the new law designed to protect consumers and online shoppers will be able to get their money back from rogue websites, replacements for faulty items and poor quality home repairs redone.

For the first time the law will also be extended to cover the replacement of faulty digital content such as film and music downloads, online games, apps and e-books.

The proposed new rules, which are part of a draft Consumer Rights Bill, will also set a 30 day limit for the return of faulty goods bought in-store and get a full refund.  At present, retailers are allowed to set a ‘reasonable’ limit – usually 14 days.

Shoppers will also be able to get their money back after one failed repair of faulty goods, or one faulty replacement, for in-store purchases. Digital content will be subject to a similar rule, but there is no 30 day limit and retailers have more opportunities to provide a replacement or repair before a shopper can request a refund.

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson, said: ‘For too long the rules that apply when buying goods and services have been murky for both consumers and businesses. The situation is even worse in relation to digital content.

‘It is about time consumers knew what their rights are and businesses have clearer information on what is expected of them when problems inevitably do arise. That is why we have put clarity and fairness at the heart of the proposed Consumer Bill of Rights.

‘We want to make sure consumers are confident about their rights in everyday situations be it their washing machine breaking down or an online game they purchased always crashing.

‘This will also benefit businesses as they are going to spend less time working out their legal obligations when they get complaints from customers.’

Consumer organisations such as Which? have welcomed the proposals.  Executive Director Richard Lloyd said the Bill would; ‘bring consumer law into the 21st century’,  making it easier for consumers to know their rights and the power to challenge bad practices.

Earlier this year Which? claimed that shoppers were losing out on £1.2billion each year because they didn’t understand their right to return faulty or unwanted protects.

Citizens Advice also welcomed the proposals and recommended further steps be taken to deal with bad practice.  Chief Executive Gillian Guy said;

'Regulators should name and shame businesses which refuse to put right bad practice so that customers know who they can trust to treat them fairly.  As well as protecting customers, naming and shaming by enforcers would prevent dodgy businesses gaining a competitive advantage over companies that abide by the law.'


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