Consumer rights for digital purchases brought up to date

Consumers are being given new legal rights from today that will entitle them to a repair or replacement when digital products are faulty.

The Consumer Rights Act will bring digital purchases in line with physical ones which are covered by the Sales of Goods Act, created in 1979 before the advent of the internet.

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills said that shoppers are spending increase amounts of money on digital content. More than £2.8bn was spent on downloaded music, video and games in 2014 alone, an 18 per cent increase from the previous year.

The new law will also clarify rules around refunds, repairs or replacements of faulty goods. Consumers now have a 30-day window following a digital purchase to reject a faulty item and receive a full refund.

According to the department, researchers in 2014 found that shoppers had encountered more than 18 million problems with consumer goods and services in the preceding year. In total, this left consumers £4.15bn out of pocket.

The bill sets out a number of changes to the rules around consumer protection in addition to the 30-day window. These include:

  • After 30 days retailers have an opportunity to repair or replace any faulty goods and if the attempts are unsuccessful, the consumer can claim a refund or a price reduction.
  • There are clear rules around services if not carried out with reasonable care and skill as agreed with the consumer. The service provider will need to adhere to the original agreement or provide a partial refund.
  • Consumers will be able to challenge terms and conditions which are not fair or are hidden in the small print.

Business Minister Nick Boles said: “Whether it’s downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the Consumer Rights Act makes it easier to understand your rights.

“UK consumers spend £90bn a month and it is important they are able to shop with confidence. These changes will also simplify the law for businesses so they can spend less time worrying about unclear and unwieldy regulations.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director of the consumer product body Which? said the act was long overdue and needed to reflect the significant changes to shopping habits since mass adoption of the internet.

“Getting a refund or repair, dealing with issues with faulty digital downloads and understanding contracts should now all be much simpler,” he said.

“Businesses must ensure their staff are aware of the changes so they’re not caught out short-changing customers or breaking the law.”

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