Stand up for your rights

Wednesday 28 October 2015, 12:58 PM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

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As a nation, we're notoriously bad at complaining, with the fuzzy rules around refunds not helping to boost our confidence. This could be about to change though, with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 making it much easier to know where you stand if you have a problem with something you purchase.

The Act, which came into effect on 1st October and covers all purchases from that date onwards, gives you much more protection as a consumer. As well as setting out timescales for complaints, the legislation also extends to digital content such as downloaded music, ebooks and games.

These are the key points under the new Act and how they'll affect you:

• You now have 30 days in which you can return a faulty product and get a full refund or a repair. In the past, although many shops published time limits for returns, it was really down to their discretion.

• Once 30 days have elapsed you still have a right to ask for a repair or a replacement if an item is faulty. If you're not happy with the repair, you can ask for a refund or price reduction, or you can ask the retailer to replace the item or repair it again at no cost to you.

• For the first six months you'll be able to get all your money back but after this point the retailer can make a deduction to reflect the use you've had from the item. The only exception to this is if you've bought a car, where the retailer will be able to reduce the refund from the end of the 30 day full refund period.    

• If you buy digital content, you have slightly different rights. If the content won't play, you can ask the retailer for a repair or a replacement. If it's still faulty, or it's not possible or practical to repair or replace the content, you're within your rights to ask for a refund.

• You'll also be entitled to compensation if you download digital content that damages your device or other content you own. This might be the case if the content contains a virus.

• The Act also applies to services, including everything from haircuts and wedding photos through to building work and car repairs. If you're not satisfied that a service has been carried out with reasonable care, you can ask for it to be put right or get a refund.    

While the Act makes it easier to know what your rights are if you buy a faulty product or service, it doesn't automatically mean you'll get a refund. In the past this would have meant going to the small claims court to get your money back but, thanks to the changes, you can now use the free Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes instead. 

These schemes aim to resolve your complaint for free and without the hassle of going to court. If the retailer or service provider is a member of an ADR scheme, they'll be able to give you details. Being a member of a scheme isn't mandatory, but the government expects take-up to increase significantly as a result of the new Act.