On 1 October 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force. This is a complete overhaul of consumer law as we know it. It aims to make consumer law clearer for both consumers and businesses.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 consolidates the three pertinent pieces of consumer law, namely:
1- The Sale of Goods Act 1979
2- The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
3- Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
The new legislation has been modernised to protect all shoppers and purchases, and to ensure retailers are fully aware of their obligations to consumers if things go wrong.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 covers all goods but is of particular interest to car buyers, given the significant cost of purchasing a car and the subsequent impact if things do indeed go wrong.
A clause in the law known as ‘early right to reject’ specifies that any fault found within 30 days of buying a product entitles the buyer to a full refund of the purchase costs without an opportunity to correct any imperfection.
Therefore, motorists can now return and reject faulty vehicles within thirty days of purchase, and demand full refunds on such faulty vehicles. However, motorists will be required to prove the vehicle is of insufficient quality, not fit for purpose or not as described. You would also have to demonstrate that the fault was present at the point of sale which can potentially be tricky.
After the initial 30 days following purchase, but within a 6 month period, the legislation grants a supplier one opportunity to correct a fault brought to their attention. Such work might also be covered by a third party or in-house warranty. If the repair fails or a further problem arises, the buyer can subsequently request a full refund or a part refund that takes into consideration any general wear and tear.
In more extreme cases, the newly implemented legislation also gives buyers the chance to settle disputes with a seller more quickly and cost effectively, using an Ombudsman rather than going through the courts. This process is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, which until recently was only available in some sectors.
Earlier in 2015, the Government Consumer Affairs Minister, Jo Swinson, explained:
“For too long consumers and businesses have struggled to understand the complicated rules that apply when buying goods and services.” She added: “That is why the Consumer Rights Act is so important in setting out clear and updated consumer rights for goods, services and for the first time digital content.”
It is still unclear how the recent change in legislation will carry over to the on-going ‘Volkswagen emissions scandal’. It is understood that many millions of vehicles are fitted with ‘defeat devices’, which cheated the emissions tests and were then effectively sold ‘not as described’. It would appear there are grounds for consumers to request their money back, particularly as the new legislation also encapsulates purchases made before it was implemented on the 1 October 2015.