Consumer Rights 1 – The Contract.
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In positioning yourself as an expert, whether representing your own business or someone elses, it’s important to have a basic understanding of consumer rights.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to refer to consumer rights but being able to discuss them knowledgeably will inspire your customers to have confidence in you.
The guidance in these pages is not intended to replace legal advice. It is provided as a shorter, more understandable guide. The information is derived from www.legislation.gov.uk and www.businesscompanion.info. Updated December 2017.
On 1 October 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 changed the rules relating to the supply of goods, services and digital content for contracts made from that date. This now applies to all contracts where goods are supplied, including sale, hire, hire-purchase and work/materials contracts. The full guide is available online, but it is vast and complex. Much of it does not relate to the type of purchase that this website is dedicated to.
Confusion arises as popular websites summarise the main points that apply to most purchases. It becomes more complex when goods are sold in the home and when they are made to measure or customised, or whether the company acts under the principle that is providing a service rather than goods.
These pages aim to simplify and summarise the main points that are relevant when considering a purchase and does not replace legal advice. There may be variations in Scottish and Irish Law.
For the purpose of these pages, the person/s considering or making a purchase are described as ‘the consumer’. The person or company selling it is ‘the trader’. If your customer is buying on behalf of a company, they are not a consumer and are not covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If your customer initially presents as a consumer but then says that they want to purchase in the company name, it is ethical to advise them that consumer rights will not apply.
If your customer is buying on behalf of a company, they are not a consumer and are not covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Let your customer know what to expect. Upheaval is better managed when your customer knows and can plan for it.
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When a consumer buys goods from a trader, both parties enter into a contract. A contract may be defined as an agreement between two or more parties that is intended to be legally binding. In addition to terms agreed between the parties, the law sets certain standards for consumer contracts. Contracts may be for goods, service or a mixture of the two.
The contract may be considered binding even if it is agreed verbally. In home improvement contracts, there is always a written contract which must be supplied in a durable form. Written or emailed would be considered durable. In dispute, the trader would only have to prove that it was provided or sent. It is the responsibility of the consumer to receive it.
If after considering a quotation, the consumer phones a trader to agree a purchase, in theory, a contract is in place. If the consumer changed his mind, he would be in breach of contract. I don’t believe that any company that I know would enforce it, as until a contract is signed and a deposit paid, no work should have commenced.
My personal opinion is that, if no work has commenced and a contract isn’t signed, let the customer off the hook. Hopefully, they will come back to you when they are ready.
Usually the contract for the supply and installation of a home improvement is considered a ‘mixed’ contract. The general rule is that all the relevant parts of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 apply – for example, the goods elements of the contract attract the rights and remedies associated with goods, and the services elements attract the rights and remedies for services.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, certain standards apply to every transaction for the sale and supply of goods.
The person transferring or selling the goods must have the right to do so and the goods must:
- be of a satisfactory quality – of a standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory.
- be fit for purpose – including any purpose that you have expressly described as part of the contract.
- match the description, sample or model unless a possible variation has been explained to you, as often occurs with natural fabrics such as wood.
- be installed correctly, where installation has been agreed as part of the contract.
The physical products that you supply do usually meet the first three criteria. The problems more often stem from the work required to put the order together and complete installation.
When a fault is discovered with a large home improvement item, it is usually too late to be practical to send it back. The foundations have been laid for a conservatory or the old windows or kitchen have already been removed. Holes for blinds and shutters have already been drilled. It is rare that the complete product is faulty. It is usually a small part of it, so it is more practical to continue with the product and have faults rectified than start again with a new supplier who is no less likely to disappoint.
NEXT. Consumer Rights 2. Dealing with Problems.
Taking the time to make sure your customer understands the order and what to expect is the best way to avoid issues with consumer rights.