Wiltshire retailers prepare for new consumer rights legislation

By Anita Jaynes on 30 September, 2015

A leading Wiltshire commercial lawyer is urging retail businesses in the region to review their trading terms and conditions ahead of new consumer laws which are being introduced this week.

The new Consumer Rights Act – which comes into force on 1 October – aims to rectify the traditional complexities of UK consumer law, with the new rules affecting all retailers of goods, services and digital content.

The act sets out to provide consumers with greater clarity, protection and confidence when purchasing goods and services. This includes dealing with unfair contract terms, anti-competitive behaviour and settling disputes over faulty goods.

But while the new law is, for the most part, similar to existing UK laws and simply requires retailers to fine-tune their terms and conditions, Kate Westbrook, partner at leading commercial law firm Thrings, believes it offers organisations in Wiltshire an ideal opportunity to take stock of their terms of business.

Kate said: “The new Consumer Rights Act will affect all retailers of goods, services and digital content, make consumer law clearer and easier to understand, and ensure consumers and businesses are able to buy and sell with greater confidence.

“Retailers will need to understand consumers’ rights, review their terms and conditions and, where appropriate, refund policies. They will also need to assess their marketing materials and communications to ensure they comply with the new rules, and implement staff training to raise awareness.

“While many retailers already offer no–quibble guarantees and refunds and generous returns periods which go beyond consumers’ statutory rights, all retailers will also now need to embrace the 30-day right to refund for faulty goods. As an example, only consumers who buy online can cancel within 14 days and get a refund, but for simplicity some retailers will now allow a refund within 30 days, whether the goods are faulty or not.

“And for the first time, there will be clear rules for what should happen if a service is not provided with reasonable care and skill, or as agreed. The service business must bring it into line with what was agreed with the customer or, if this is not practical, give them some money back. So for instance if a consumer asks a plumber to fit a new bath, the plumber fails to provide a plan showing where the fittings are to be installed and the customer says they are put in the wrong place, the customer can require the fittings to be relocated to the right place at no cost. The customer could also be entitled to require any damage caused by the relocation to be made good.”

Meanwhile the new legislation will also impact on those businesses which sell their products to domestic and international customers over the internet. With the internet opening up a significant number of new routes to market for retailers, the act places an onus on e-commerce retailers to ensure their customers’ interests are fully protected.

Kate adds: “Under the new law, digital content is handled separately from goods and services. The new legislation gives consumers a clear right to the repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as online film and games, music downloads, e-books, apps and in-app purchases.

“Online trade offers huge opportunities for retailers, but they need to be aware of consumers’ rights both online and in-store, and review their processes to be fully compliant.”

Pictured above: Kate Westbrook, partner at Thrings