The Consumer Rights Act 2015, which came into force on 1 October 2015, brought together key consumer rights provisions within one piece of legislation.
The Act applies to both “traders” and “consumers”. A “trader” is someone acting “for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession”, whilst a consumer is an individual acting for purposes “wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession”.
Last autumn we considered the key provisions of the Act in relation to consumer contracts for goods and for services.
In contracts for services, consumers are entitled to:
- have the service performed with reasonable care and skill;
- pay a reasonable price if none has been fixed beforehand; and
- have the work completed within a reasonable timeframe if none has been specified.
If a contract is formed on or after 1 October 2015, an oral or written statement made by the trader (or someone acting on the trader’s behalf) to a consumer about the trade or service shall be deemed to be a term of the contract if the consumer takes this into account when making a decision about entering into the contract or when making a decision about a service once the contract has been formed. There are certain exceptions to this rule: for example, the trader and consumer may explicitly agree a change to the term. Certain types of information provided before the contract is formed will also be deemed to form part of the contract.
Remedies for services which do not conform to the contract include repeat performance (at no cost to the consumer) or a right to a price reduction.
Provisions on unfair terms are also included in the Act. An unfair term is not binding on the consumer. Subject to limited exclusions, a term will be deemed to be unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the parties in a way which is detrimental to the rights of the consumer. The fairness of a term will always be considered within the context of the subject matter of the contract; all of the circumstances in existence at the time the term was agreed, as well as of all other terms on which the term under consideration depends, will also be taken into account when assessing whether or not a term is fair.
The Act also makes provision for contracts for the purchase of “digital content”. Purchases in this category include digital books, computer software, audiovisual content, mobile apps and computer games, but exclude online shops selling goods or mobile service contracts.