The 5 Consumer Laws we should all know
SALE OF GOODS ACT Your mp3 player breaks exactly 1 day after the 1 year guarantee expires. The electronics firm where you bought it from says that as the 1 year guarantee has expired, there is nothing that they can do to help you and so you need to buy a new mp3 player. The Sale of Goods Act says that your mp3 player must be fit for purpose. For the first 4-5 weeks you have a "right of rejection" - if the product that you have bought breaks down, you can demand a refund. For the next 6 months, you are entitled to replacement or repair of the product/s you have bought. It is up to the retailer to prove that there was nothing wrong with them if they wish to try and get out of having to do the work. And 6 months thereafter, there is still a duty to replace or repair a faulty product such as an mp3 player, but you have to prove that there was something wrong. The key time span is 6 years and that is how long goods may be covered by the Sale of Goods Act. It all depends on what "sufficiently durable" means. If let’s say a light bulb blows after 13 months, the consumer is not going to be too unhappy. However, if their washing machine breaks down after 13-14 months they are going to be pretty unhappy. Government guidelines read: "Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description." A key fact is that your relationship in the Sale of Goods Act is with the retailer, not the manufacturer. The law applies across the UK, but has numerous small differences as applied in Scotland. CONSUMER CREDIT ACT In this case, your credit card provider is often liable. You and your partner have chosen your favourite sofa and it is a bargain at just £600.00 and you decide to pay via credit card. The delivery day arrives but your sofa doesn’t because the company you bought it from has gone bust. However, if the sofa firm goes bust all is not lost. In this case, such an incident is good reason for a refund from your credit card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Section 75 only works for credit cards. And it only works when you're paying for goods that cost between £100 and £30,000. The most obvious claim when furniture firms go bust, is for non-delivery of goods. But if you buy any goods and after 13 months it breaks, and the shop that sold you it is no longer in business, you can pursue the credit card provider. Even if you paid only a small part of the price of the goods with your credit card, the provider is still liable. But bear in mind that the act only applies to single items worth more than £100, not five items of £30.00 for example. SUPPLY OF GOODS AND SERVICES ACT Services are like goods. A garage repairs your car and you drive it onto the road and a 3 days later the same fault reappears again. The garage refuses to do the work again or even compensate you, saying that it is all a matter of opinion. However, the car is broken but whose fault is it? The SUPPLY OF GOODS AND SERVICES ACT does the same for services as the Sale of Goods Act does. The service provided has got to be provided with reasonable skill and care. The goods part of the act means that any goods used must be of satisfactory quality. In essence, you have rights to put the bad service right. Either the offending persons must do it, or they must pay for someone else to do it. This applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but common law in Scotland gives similar rights to the consumer. DENIED BOARDING REGULATIONS An airline cancels your flight and it's not going to compensate you either. However, recently The EU has introduced some regulations that have caused raised voices in some areas of the airline industry. If you are denied entry to a flight where you met all the boarding criteria - prompt check-in, valid ticket and in a fit state to board - or the flight is cancelled, you now have rights. Firstly, you now get "reimbursement of the cost of the ticket within 7 days or a return flight to the first point of departure or re-routing to their final destination". You are also entitled to "care". The EU's summary mentions "refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and place of accommodation, 2 free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails". And also you are now entitled to compensation of 250 euros for all flights of 1,500km. You get 400 euros for all flights within the EU of more than 1,500km, and the same for all other flights between 1,500 and 3,500km. All other flights receive 600 euros. Compensation only applies to cancellation, and not a delay. However, the airline can avoid compensation if passengers are notified at least 2 weeks before departure. And if they are notified less than 2 weeks before, and are re-routed with only minor delays, they will be NO compensation. There are rights for people who are delayed. Different levels of delay entitle customers to different levels of care, while any delay of more than 5 hours allows for a refund, obviously, you will not be any closer to your destination. However the legislation does contain get-out for airlines. In "extraordinary circumstances", they do not have to compensate passengers if staffing shortages or technical faults are responsible and these are both "extraordinary circumstances". DISTANCE SELLING REGULATIONS When it comes to buying online, you are allowed to change your mind Over the weekend you buy an MP3 player via an online retailer however as you mentioned to your mum you wanted an MP3 your mum has bought you an MP3 player as well. Your MP3 is unopened so you try and return it, but the online retailer refuses to give you a refund. The Distance Selling Regulations allow customers a cooling-off period of 7 working days. For goods, this counts from the day after the goods are delivered. For services, it's 7 working days from the contract being agreed. This applies to all transactions carried out over a distance, not just online transactions. So you can get a refund but there are some things you should be aware of such as who pays the postage. There are also things that are excluded: newspapers, magazines, personalised goods, flowers, food, software where the seal is broken, clothes that have been worn other than just to try them on, hotel bookings, and transport tickets. This law applies across the UK, but has some differences as applied in Scotland and Northern Ireland. SMALL CLAIMS COURT Obviously, the preferred course of action for most people is that the errant firm admits its mistake and settles your claim after the first letter. For some people, writing to a newspaper consumer champion offers a chance to encourage the company to resolve the situation. But the ultimate recourse for most people - when the company is not budging an inch - is the small claims court, which costs a small fee to use, but can be used without the need for a solicitor. HOW TO USE THE SMALL CLAIM COURT IN 4 SIMPLE STEPS The county court has a ‘small claims track’ to handle claims for less than £5,000, or £1,000 for personal injury or housing disrepair. The process is designed to be cheap and quick and should not require a solicitor. 1) When is it worth making a claim? Before you make a small claim you need to show you have given the other party a clear opportunity to pay up. Write a letter saying how much they owe and what for, and a warning that you will make a court claim if you do not receive the money beyond a reasonable deadline. It is worth seeking advice from a Citizen’s Advice Bureau or law centre before starting your action. 2) What do I need to do to start the process If the debtor does not respond in time, you can submit your small claims forms. These are available online – search for form ‘N1’ via: www.hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk – and cost approx. £25 for claims up to £300, rising to £100 for claims up to £5,000. If you are successful in your claim, the other party will be liable for this fee. 3) What do I do next? The defendant has 2 weeks to respond to the court. Hopefully they will not contest the case and pay up. But if they do, the court will allocate a hearing date, which can take a few months. 4) In court Both parties will present their cases to a judge. Your main aim is to prove the debt exists. You can take a ‘lay representative’ to speak on your behalf – it could be a relative or a friend. But if you decide to hire a solicitor you will probably have to foot the bill yourself – even if you win.