The days where retailers could rely on the maxim caveat emptor (buyer beware) have long passed. Businesses that trade in goods and services must comply with a wide range of legislation designed to protect the interests of consumers. Furthermore, many of these laws govern online sales, as well as face-to-face transactions.
Helping businesses understand their legislative duties and responsibilities around consumer law is a significant part of our work. To help you get to grips with the different UK legislative acts and regulations our commercial law solicitors have provided the answers to some frequently asked questions about how to deal with consumer rights.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
Most people are familiar with their rights under the for claiming compensation, even if they are unaware of the Act itself. The CRA applies to all consumer contract terms relating to the sale of goods, services, and digital content entered into on or after 1 October 2015. According to the CRA 2015 explanatory note, the Act:
“…sets out a framework that consolidates in one place key consumer rights covering contracts for goods, services, digital content and the law relating to unfair terms in consumer contracts. In addition, the Act introduces easier routes for consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”) to challenge anti-competitive behaviour through the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations became UK law in 2008 and prohibits misleading and aggressive sales practices before, during, and after a consumer to trader transaction. The Regulations contain a blacklist of commercial practices which are deemed always unfair. Misleading acts or unfair commercial practices are also covered.
Sale of Goods Act 1979
Although much of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 have been replaced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, both Acts still apply to business to business contracts. The main thrust is that goods must correspond with the seller’s description and implies a term that goods sold must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
When deciding on a dispute under the Act, the court is likely to apply a solution that seems most reasonable, and this can include a full refund, free repair, or replacement of the goods. It is important to remember, however, that in a business to business transaction, the seller’s liability may be limited by terms contained in the supply contract. Therefore, it is best practice to talk to a Commercial Law Solicitor about which legal remedy would best fit the particular circumstances of your dispute.
The Consumer Contract Regulations
The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations (CCRs) apply to all business to consumer contracts entered into after 13 June 2014. They set out the pre-contractual information which must be provided to both physical (i.e. in the shop) and distance (online) customers.
The CCRs also provide a ‘cooling off’ period (normally 14 days) in which a customer buying goods at a distance can cancel the contract without having to provide a reason or incur any liability other than the:
- Cost of returning the product
- Cost of services supplied and received during the cooling off period
- Enhanced delivery costs
- Deductions for use beyond what is necessary to establish the nature, characteristics, and functioning of the product
Electronic Commerce Regulations
The Electronic Commerce (EU Directive) Regulations (ECR) refer to an “information society service” in relation to who the Regulations apply to. This is defined as “any service normally provided for remuneration at a distance, by means of electronic equipment for the processing (including digital compression) and storage of data, at the individual request of a recipient of the service.
Therefore, it includes businesses that trade online and also those that advertise on the internet and store digital content for customers. The ECR provides that online sellers include the following on their websites:
- Their business name, VAT number, geographical address, email address, company registration number, details of any relevant supervisory authority, details of any relevant professional body memberships, and clear and transparent prices.
- Acknowledge receipt of an order placed through technological means without undue delay and by electronic means and give the service recipient appropriate, effective, and accessible technical means allowing them to identify and correct any errors.
- Virtually all websites are caught by the ECR and the above is only a snapshot of its compliance requirements. To find out more, please speak to one of our solicitors.
Get legal assistance from LawBite
Consumers have become increasingly aware of their rights when buying products or services over the past decade and are more than willing to broadcast any breaches via online reviews and social media. It's vital, therefore, to understand and comply with consumer protection law, to protect your business not only from enforcement action but also from reputational damage.
At LawBite, we're committed to empowering entrepreneurs like you with the knowledge and resources to thrive in the legal landscape. We can help navigate the different legislation that your retail business needs to comply with and recommended the processes and documentation you need to have in place to stay on the right side of the law. To find out more, book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our expert commercial lawyers or call us on 020 3808 8314.