As part of my Business Law masters, one of the modules this year has been ‘Consumer Law.’ Whilst this area is huge, it is also an area that affects every single one of us regularly and is very important.
Alarmingly, what I found most interesting was the fact that numerous studies showed that generally consumers just do not understand their rights. This doesn’t just include consumers but also businesses who should be enforcing these rights and leaving themselves open to consumer complaints and breaches of law.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on 1 October 2015 and represented the biggest overhaul of consumer law for many decades. It replaced the 3 key pieces of legislation with the idea to consolidate all consumer rights in to one place and make it simple and easier to understand, but has it done that?!
In this blog I will focus on the ’14 day cooling off period’ specifically with the purchase of goods as I have noticed many misunderstandings recently regarding this right and it isn’t surprising that so many problems occur.
“I bought the item in a shop and I changed my mind, everyone gets a 14-day cooling off period.”
NOT TRUE – The right to change your mind is only for goods you have bought online, often many supermarkets and high streets will have their own policies and mirror this (or even give longer) but they have absolutely no legal obligation to do so.
“The 14-day cooling off period applies to all goods I buy online.”
NOT TRUE – The cooling off period does not apply to any perishable items like flowers or food, an item that was personalised or custom-made for you or a CD, DVD or software, if the seal has been broken on the packaging.
“The website didn’t tell me about my 14-day cooling off period right so I don’t get one”
NOT TRUE – If a seller fails to tell in their T&C’s you they actually have to give a longer period to you.
“I don’t get my delivery costs refunded, only the price of the Goods”
KIND OF TRUE – If you paid for standard delivery when you bought the goods, the seller has to refund this to you should you return the goods. However, read their terms because they can limit this refund if you chose a different delivery option and you legally do not have the right to a refund for this if they have stated so in their T&C’s.
“I have to pay to return the goods”
SORT OF – Check their terms. If it does not say that you must pay to return the Goods then they must refund you for any delivery costs accrued by you.
“I can use the item however I wish and return it within 14 days”
NOT TRUE – This is probably the biggest myth I have come across lately.
The 14 day cooling off period is purely to give consumers the confidence in buying goods and having the knowledge they can always send it back if they change their mind.
This right does not allow the goods to be used in such a way that would not have occurred whilst being handled in a shop. If you unpick a toy from all of it’s packaging on Christmas Day and it gets scratched whilst playing with it for example you will not have a right to a full refund, if any refund at all.. (unless there was something wrong with it).
If the goods have been used in a way that has reduced the value then the refund that you will be offered (if any) will reflect that. You may be able to argue this if the seller does not state this in their T&C’s however.
If you want to return the goods then keep it in the same condition as it was when it was delivered to you. If after trying it, using it or wearing it you no longer want it then it is down to the individual sellers policy as to whether it is returnable. If it is faulty, this is a completely different right all together.
These are probably the most frequent myths surrounding this area of Consumer Law but by no means all of them. It is important if you are a business selling to consumers that your terms and conditions protect your business to the full extent permitted by law whilst being very clear regarding the law.