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Consumer Law

Sarah Riding on key changes in consumer law

FLOORING retailers must be aware of the new consumer law relating to the supply of goods and services to ensure they are fully compliant.
The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (CCR) came into force on June 13 last year. The new requirements replaced the existing legislation and apply to any retail business selling to a consumer.
The first change is on the provision of information. Following the introduction of CCR, more information must be provided to consumers before a purchase. The level of detail required depends on the method of purchase.
For in-store purchases, consumers must have access to the complaints handling policy and any aftercare or guarantee information.
If consumers have the right to cancel, they must be given a cancellation form. Alternatively, if the goods and services are being sold online, a retailer must identify if they are acting on behalf of another trader and provide their contact details in addition to their own.
In relation to cancellation rights, the ‘cooling off’ period for consumers has been extended from seven days to 14 calendar days. The cooling off period for goods starts when the consumer receives the goods.
It is also important for retailers to be aware that following the introduction of the regulations, if a consumer exercises their statutory right to a refund, then it is the responsibility of the business to refund the price paid and the cost of the standard delivery charges.
Refunds must be made to the consumer within 14 days of receipt of the returned goods, or receipt of evidence that the goods have been sent back.
Inertia selling is also covered in the legislation. In other words, consumers are protected from unsolicited sales or additional charges, which have not been agreed in advance.
The new regulations make provisions in relation to helpline charges. If a retailer offers a helpline to its customers, then these consumers should only be charged at a basic rate.
l The Consumer Rights Bill: Another significant change that retailers must start familiarising themselves with is the Consumer Rights Bill which introduces new provisions that ensure that consumers are both better informed and protected.
Current legislation including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 are replaced with an aim of simplifying and removing inconsistencies from the current regime.
The Bill will also seek to clarify the standards a consumer can expect when making a purchase and the actions available if the standards are not met. It will also provide clarity on whether terms are fair or unfair. The bill is expected to become law in the second quarter of 2015.
Changes include accurate descriptions so that goods and services must meet the descriptions given by the trader before they are sold, and must be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality, while services must be provided with reasonable care and skill.
The Bill clarifies a period of 30 days for consumers to reject faulty or substandard goods and to receive a full refund. This change removes the current ambiguity that exists in the current legislation.
Another important change in this area relates to whether a consumer agrees to accept a repair or replacement.
Under the new law the business has only one attempt to get it right. As with the Consumer Contracts Regulations, the proposed The Consumer Rights Bill deals with digital content for the first time.
There is also much needed guidance contained in the Bill on unfair terms. Clarification is proposed on which contract terms can be challenged in a court so that it can decide whether or not they are fair. A useful list is provided in the draft Bill.
Finally, from 2015, traders receive notice of routine inspections from enforcers such as Trading Standards to allow them to make necessary arrangements.
l What must retailers do?: For a start, retailers must review their current standard terms and processes against the new requirements and ensure compliance with the Consumer Contracts Regulations. Businesses must adopt the necessary amendments to its processes and procedures.
The online experience and terms and conditions must also be updated to ensure the consumer has the right information at the right time and the business is not exposed to claims or a longer cooling off period as information is not given at the correct time. Training should also be completed to ensure that staff members are familiar with the changes.
Sarah Riding is a partner and commercial law specialist at national law firm Irwin Mitchell

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.