World Consumer Day – your rights
15 March 2013 is world consumer day. With over half a million complaints to the Citizens Advice consumer service in England and Wales between April 2012 and February 2013, here’s a reminder of your rights.
What you can expect when you buy
Everything you buy must:
- be of satisfactory quality – in good working order when you buy it
- match the description – if an item is sold as being 24 carat gold or HD ready, then this has to be the case
- be fit for their purpose – if you checked with the retailer that software is compatible with your computer but it isn’t, you can return it.
If not, you’re entitled to either your money back, a repair or a replacement.
You don’t have the right to return something if you just don’t want it
Some shops do allow customers to swap unwanted or unsuitable items, but if you buy it from a shop unless it’s faulty or not described properly you aren’t normally covered by consumer law.
Armchair shoppers get a cooling off period
When you buy items online, over the phone, through a catalogue or TV shopping channel it is called ‘distance selling’ because you don’t deal with anyone face to face. You haven’t been able to check out the product yourself and are relying on a picture or description so you normally get a cooling-off period, to change your mind and send it back.
What armchair shoppers can’t return
You can’t return things that you’ve bought online (or by phone or post) that have a short shelf life like flowers or food because they won’t be usable by the time they arrive back with the trader. And for CDs and DVDs you can only return them if they haven’t been opened – if the security seal is broken or any cellophane has been torn off you will not be able to use your distance selling cancellation rights.
You have the same rights when you buy things on sale as you do with full price goods. But if there is a fault which is pointed out to you, then you can’t return it for that reason.
Buying at home or work
If you buy something on your doorstep, in your home, in someone else’s home or at work for over £35, you usually have a cooling-off period to cancel.
If you used a credit card to buy goods you may have extra rights
’Section 75’ of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 gives you rights that if your goods cost more than £100, the credit card company has the same responsibilities as the trader, so you can get your compensation from them directly. It’s usually used when traders go bust or the consumer is unable to resolve their problem directly with the trader.
Your rights are with the seller, not the manufacturer
In the first place you should always return faulty products to the seller, and question them if they try and get you to go to the manufacturer instead. But in some cases it might be more beneficial for you to claim directly from the manufacturer under their guarantee or warranty if this looks like a better deal in the circumstances.