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The new consumer rights bill continues to work its way into the law of the land and this week consumer minister Jo Swinson has outlined some of the measures to be included. The aim is to streamline eight rather complicated pieces of legislation into one, while doing more to include online downloads and streaming services.
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 had 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.”
Among the more important points are the measures being made to clear up any ambiguity in the law. Currently customers are allowed to return goods which are faulty within in a ‘reasonable period’. Most shops consider this to be 14 days but some stores will allow a timeframe of two months. There will be an introduction of a 30-day limit for customers to return faulty products for a full refund.
Staying on the issue of faulty products, if an item is sent for repair once and fails again, then consumers have to right to have it repaired a second time or to seek a refund for the product. Interestingly this will also apply to services. Should a painter or carpenter, for example, do a job that isn’t satisfactory, customers can demand a partial refund or that the work is redone to a higher standard.
Swinson does advise that where possible to get agreements in writing as this will go a long way to help clear up any disputes.
Greater protection will now be offered for digital consumers. Downloading and streaming services such as apps, films and software that don’t work or get interrupted will have to be replaced or refunded by the service provider.
It will no longer be acceptable to hide terms and conditions of contracts in small print, any cancellation fines etc must be made clear. The most famous example of this being when a person wants to cancel a gym membership but finds they are obliged to continue paying for a number of months.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, says: “The new bill of rights will bring consumer law into the 21st century at last, making it easier for everyone to know their rights and giving people more power to challenge bad practices.
“There are many welcome measures in the bill, including reforming the law on unfair terms and conditions and giving consumers clear rights when digital downloads go wrong. This will be good for consumers and good for businesses that try to do the right thing by their customers.”
The bill isn’t expected to be passed into law until next year.