The Importance of Knowing your Consumer Rights
In light of the recent ‘Consumer Rights Day’ Do you know your customer’s consumer rights?
Keeping up to date with changes in the laws will work in your favour. While they are there to protect your customers, knowing what your consumer rights are will ensure a smoother customer experience SHOULD anything go awry.
We understand that learning consumer rights can seem very dull. However, knowing the facts could help you understand what your customers need to know upfront and what their rights are after purchase.
Before you research in depth, it’s important that you’re aware of what your customer’s fundamental rights are when spending their hard-earned cash.
In October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act updated in conjunction with the popularity of online shopping. The combination of these three separate Acts (the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act), made the rules of the 2015 Consumer Rights Act much clearer and simple to follow.
How does it work?
When a customer buys something from a seller, they automatically sign a contract where the sellers have to agree to provide your ‘statutory rights’. This is the law and is separate from the company’s own returns policy, so disregard whatever they tell you otherwise!
The basic law of agreement between buyer and seller is that all goods must be:
Of satisfactory quality
Goods should never have fault when you purchase them. Unless both you and the customer come to an agreement to receive a discount, usually around 10% off the original price, a faulty product is unacceptable. This usually limits you to a non-refundable conclusion, though.
If a rational person could describe a product as fit for use, depending on the item and the price that you bought it for, it is satisfactory. For example, if you were to sell an iPhone, usually around £500 onwards, for under £100, the satisfactory quality is likely to be unimpressive.
Fit for purpose
‘Fit for purpose’ is a term used to describe any product a customer has purchased. It must do what it says on the tin, i.e., not fall apart within minutes of buying. Another example, if you were to sell a new a phone charger suggesting it compatible with a certain device, only for it not to work, you’re entitled to refund. This is when clear packaging information and filling out full product descriptions your website can cover you to a degree.
This can vary, though. If a customer accidentally makes a mistake, buying the wrong charger, you’re not necessarily bound to give refund. It is good customer service to do so or offer an exchange when applicable.
Essentially, ‘As described’ means selling something that’s not as described, (especially key for any online purchases) is against the law.
For example, if you buy a black Kindle from Amazon, and when the product arrives it’s white, the customer is entitled to a full refund.
Claiming Within a Certain Amount of Time
Although it may seem like a great law in favour of consumers, there are some limits. It’s not worth gathering any 2-year-old purchases for a refund.
Within 30 days: You’re entitled to give a full refund on any goods that don’t meet the standards mentioned above. After the 30 days, you are not held to this. You could offer an exchange, part-refund or repair instead just to keep customer loyalty.
Within six months: You are still potentially responsible for the product or service sold. You and the seller must prove that the item was not faulty at the time of purchase and if it was you need to repair or replace. If repair or replacement isn’t an option, you’re liable for a full refund.
More than six months: After six months, has passed, the seller must prove the fault was there at the time of purchase/ delivery.
If a consumer buys a product on a whim, then change their mind on the product, what can you do?
If the product is not as it was described (if bought online) or doesn’t fit its purpose, then they are entitled to a refund, exchange or repair. The law covers this. However, what if they simply changed your mind?
When Purchased in a Shop
Despite what you think, high street shops have no legal responsibility to accept a return when a customer changes their mind.
Most stores will propose a ‘Goodwill returns policy’. This gives you the consumer the option to return it if they do change their mind if they have proof of purchase. This is more to do with customer services that consumer rights. Some shops will offer a full refund, exchange or credit note/ gift card, without proof of purchase but as a business, you do not have to.
When Purchased Online
When purchasing online, the rules are different as customer automatically covered with the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations gives the customer additional consumer rights, as purchases are based only on a description and image. Therefore, the customer has more flexibility when returning something if the product is not what they expected.
With the CCR, they have 14 days to return an item from the day it arrives. 14 days is the minimum requirement by law; some shops will extend this. The business has 14 days from the day of return to give you a refund.
The cost of sending the item back to the seller does not have to be paid for by the seller. Most businesses allow free exchanges and returns.
There are some exceptions. Perishable goods, for example, you cannot return.
Now the fundamentals are hopefully understood, there are many points in the consumer rights system you should know.
The stress of a missing, damaged or late product can take its toll on all of us. However, if the customer didn’t agree for your parcel to stay with neighbours and they deny having it, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to fix the issue. Make sure you choose a delivery company that has an excellent delivery rate and feedback. Ask about their return rates and monitor how many ‘missing parcels’ you have when working with a company and investigate before you lose customers and more money!
If products are defective and you lose the receipt, customers still have the right to a repair, refund or replacement under the Consumer Rights Act.
As a business knowing consumer rights is crucial. Having this knowledge will help you ensure that your product suppliers and descriptions are clear, your team doesn’t mis-sell any services or products, and you know where you stand when it comes to your returns policy and procedures.