Consumer Rights

In recent times a number of important pieces of legislation have been introduced by the UK government which have had a dramatic effect upon consumer rights.

With the introduction of both the Sale of Goods Act and The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, a number of important changes have been made.  Consequently, contract laws and regulations have also been adapted in order to address these changes. The purchase and sale of goods and services automatically enters both the buyer and the seller into a contract of sorts, and like any other contract, this binds them under the terms of a legally enforceable agreement.

For example when buying an item from a shop, the law requires that the item must be up to at least a minimum standard in terms of quality. If for any reason the item falls below this required standard, is unfit for purpose or does not appear as it was described, the buyer is entitled to either a refund, replacement or a free repair.

If the seller fails to provide this service they will be judged to be in breach of contract and can be taken to court. This form of quality control has been introduced by the government through a number of important acts which are designed to protect the rights of consumers. In order to ensure that these standards are maintained, there are also several trading authorities that exist in order to protect and maintain consumer rights.

The Office of Fair Trading exists in order to address any Consumer Protection issues and enforces contract laws and regulations that apply to traders. In the event of a customer complaint against an organization, the authority will then investigate whether or not the offending trader is in breach of contract and can help individuals take the appropriate action. The OFT tends to deal with more serious breaches of contract law regulations, and will not usually act until they have received a large number of complaints or have been contacted by another authority.

Before the OFT can take any action, the matter is usually brought before Consumer Direct who at the very least will be able to provide claimants with legal advice on their statutory consumer rights and inform them of the best possible course of action. In some other cases, consumers may also have their complaints addressed by Trading Standards, who will also be able to provide appropriate legal advice.

According to contract law, these consumer rights apply to almost all goods that can typically be bought from shops regardless of whether or not the item is covered by a warranty. With a warranty, the purchaser is also entitled to several other consumer rights which are designed to protect their interests. A computer for example may be sold with a 12 month guarantee which will ensure that any faults or technical issues will be fixed by the seller. If the seller were for whatever reason to refuse to fulfill this obligation, they would be considered to be in breach of contract and could be forced to pay damages to the consumer in the form of compensation.

Although consumer rights regulations stipulate that consumers are entitled to return items under certain conditions, there are also several legal requirements that must be met in accordance with contract laws in order to be successful. As the purchaser of an item, you must carry some form of proof of purchase in order to successfully return an item, examples include:

  • A bank statement with details of the purchase
  • A receipt proving you have bought the item
  • The packaging the item was sold to you in
  • Or another person who witnessed you buying the item

Although consulting Trading Standards and other authorities is in most cases enough to resolve disputes of this nature. In more rare cases it may be necessary to consult a solicitor specializing in consumer rights and contract laws who will be able to provide appropriate legal advice should the matter become difficult to resolve.