Furniture retailers alerted to new Consumer Rights Act

The Furniture Ombudsman is urging retailers to ensure they are aware of key changes to consumer law brought about by a new Consumer Rights Act introduced today.

“This important piece of retail legislation will fundamentally affect the way that retailers must deal with their customers.” said Judith Turner, Senior Ombudsman for The Furniture Ombudsman.

After a period of two year’s debate and stakeholder consultation, the Consumer Rights Bill has now received Royal Assent. Retailers now have until 1st October 2015 to implement the provisions.

Judith continued: “Some key changes to the present position will be brought into force by the statute and these will have an impact on retailers. Whilst most of the provisions relating to when a product breaches a contract, such as fitness for purpose and satisfactory quality, remain the same; there have been some subtle changes to language.

“The changes proposed are likely to a have an impact on consumer’s statutory rights in certain significant ways.  How the new law will be interpreted will be subject to debate in the coming months as retailers consider the effect of this on their dealings with their consumers and how they will need to adjust.”

The main changes that will have an impact on the industry come in the remedies that are available to the consumer.

Key Changes to Consumer Rights Act

Early Right to Rejection

•    If a fault is discovered within 30 days of receipt of the goods, the consumer may reject the goods and seek a full refund.  This is a significant departure from the previous position whereby a product was accepted after an undefined reasonable period of time.

•    If a fault is discovered within the rejection period the consumer can opt to have a repair or a replacement.  If a consumer opts for having a repair or a replacement, the 30-day rejection period stops temporarily from when the fault is raised until the consumer has a satisfactory product.  The consumer then has 7 days, or the remainder of the rejection period, to assess whether the repair has been successful.  For example, a consumer receives a product and discovers a fault on day 10 of them having the product and selects to have a repair, the consumer’s rejection period stops until the repair is carried out.  The repair is carried out on day 15, a wait of 5 days; the consumer now has until the remainder of the rejection period to assess the success of the repair, this being 20 days.  The consumer’s rejection period would then end on day 35.

One Shot

•    If a fault is discovered after the rejection period the consumer has a right to a repair or a replacement.  The consumer cannot require the retailer to carry out the remedy if it is not proportional or it is impossible.

•    If a subsequent fault appears following either a repair or a replacement then the consumer can seek a full or partial refund depending on the length of time they have had the product.  The retailer now only has one attempt after the rejection period to give the consumer a product that is both fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality after a fault has been discovered, before they can seek to cancel the contract.  Therefore, the retailer will have to ascertain and be sure that any proposed repairs will be fit and lasting before they are carried out.

Delivery

•    Unless it is agreed to the contrary, the goods must be delivered without undue delay or not more than 30 days after the date of the contract.

•    The consumer can give a written delivery deadline after the estimated date has passed and if this is not met the consumer has the right to cancel.

Installation Remedy

•    If the installation is defective the remedies are in line with those in goods contracts – repair, replacement and refund in full or part – however rectification is desirable.

These changes to the law will affect businesses, but the legal and Alternative Dispute Resolution experts at The Furniture Ombudsman can help retailers understand their obligations and how to comply with them.

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