The Consumer Rights Act 2015 – how it will impact suppliers of digital content

In the last few days before campaigning for May's election started, the UK Consumer Rights Act finally made it through the parliamentary process and became law. Most of the CRA will take effect in October 2015, although this date needs rubber-stamping by parliament.

The CRA marks an important change for any organisation dealing with consumers. We take a look at the new rules affecting digital content, or 'data which are produced and supplied in digital form'.

A key aim of the CRA was to bring together existing consumer legislation into one place (an aim not completely achieved). But there are also important changes for suppliers of software, apps, games, digital video, books and music. Once the CRA takes effect, consumer contracts for digital content will have a set of terms automatically included regardless of the express terms of the contract. These are:

  • The digital content is of satisfactory quality

The CRA requires digital content to be of a standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory. The following aspects may be relevant: is it fit for all the purposes for which digital content of that kind is usually supplied, is it free from minor defects; and is it safe and durable?

  • The digital content is fit for a particular purpose

This will apply if before the contract is made the consumer makes known to the trader (expressly or by implication) any particular purpose for which the consumer is buying it. The explanatory notes to the CRA say that the purpose needs to be properly notified to the trader, so an email sent immediately before entering into the contract won't suffice.

  • The digital content is as described

The digital content must match any description of it given by the trader to the consumer. Matching a trial version of the digital content may not be good enough if the digital content does not in fact match the description given by the trader.

  • Other pre-contract information is included in the contract

The contract will now include information provided about main characteristics, functionality and compatibility that has to be provided to the consumer before purchasing to comply with the 2013 CCRs (discussed further here).

  • The trader has the right to supply the digital content

Note that this only applies where the consumer has paid for the digital content.

New statutory remedies are available to consumers if the digital content fails any of these tests. These include a right to repair or replacement and a price reduction, up to a full refund in some situations. The statutory remedies are in addition to any other rights available to the consumer, for example under contract law.

Generally, digital content that is found not to meet the required standards six months after purchase will be assumed to have been defective when supplied

We still need to see the remaining government guidance on how the CRA is intended to operate. This should put some flesh on the bones as to how the law will apply once it takes effect.

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