To mark the start of the 2009 National Consumer Week we have focussed on a handful of laws that you may find extremely useful when buying products and services, especially during these turbulent times.
You may or may not have noticed it, but consumers are fighting a war against the firms they have to deal with after falling victim to mindless companies, whether it be due to faulty products that need replacing, or out-right poor service.
Sale Of Goods Act
Think twice before upgrading your cover to a five-year extended warranty.
Tears begin to fill your eyes, dropping onto your lifeless grey screen as you ponder what to do next.
But as long as your tears didn’t cause your TV to smoke – hold that thought – because lucky for you the TV salesman didn’t know what he was talking about!
Here’s why. The Sale of Goods Act states that your TV must be fit for purpose upon purchase.
Dr Christian Twigg-Flesner, a consumer law expert at the University of Hull, says: “It must be as described. It must be of satisfactory quality, sufficiently durable, free from any defects”.
Before you get too excited, you need to make sure you didn’t ignore any of the warnings provided in the manufacturer’s handbook. This can be obvious things, for example you didn’t install it in your bathroom, or attempt to fix it by removing the back in desperation to try to fix the problem. If this is the case then you’re unlikely to have a leg to stand on.
However, if, in the short time you spent together, you treated your television with respect and despite this it still broke down, it could suggest that there was in fact a fault with it when you bought it, which would not meet the above regulation.
In this position, your legal rights will differ depending on the amount of time that has passed since you bought the TV. You could have a case for faulty items for any period of time up to 6 years. Here’s how it works. From the date of purchase, up until four to five weeks (depending on the retailers policy), you have the “right of rejection” – which basically means that if your TV/MP3 Player/Mobile Phone, stops working within this time, you can demand a refund.
Up to six months after the purchase date you are still entitled to get your TV replaced or repair, and if the retailer contests your request, it is up to them to acquire sufficient proof that it was you that was to blame, therefore avoiding responsibility. After this time, you can still get the retailer to replace or repair faulty goods, but in this case it is your responsibility to prove that you were indeed not at fault.
Many will be surprised to hear the next part. Goods are covered by the Sale of Goods Act for up to six years from the purchase date, but you need to be able to argue your corned, as you need to convince the retailer that your item was not “sufficiently durable”.
Government guidelines state that: “Goods are of satisfactory quality if they reach the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price and any description.”
Something that should be pointed out is that if you go to the TV repair man and spend £50 in an attempt to diagnose an inherent fault, only to find out that your dog mistook your TV for the tree in your back garden and you failed to notice the damp spot where your TV once stood, then you will end up footing the bill, so be warned.
Another good piece of advice is to remember that your relationship in the Sale of Goods Act is through the retailer rather than the manufacturer.
Dr Twigg-Flesner points out that “The retailer likes shepherding you off to the manufacturer”.
Looking on the bright side of extended warranties, they can offer ongoing services such as technical support, providing useful information, from setting up your appliance, to getting the best use from it. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend adding one when buying a new electric toothbrush.
The Sale Of Goods Act applies throughout the UK, but has several minor differences in Scotland.
Consumer Credit Act
Most credit card providers offer guarantees on purchases as standard when made using the card.
You call up the company to find out what’s going on and a displeased operator is rather unhelpful. You are told that won’t be receiving your computer, nor will you be expecting a £300 refund as all remaining money was passed to the liquidators to pay all of the creditors.
Head in hands, you break down into tears. No computer and £300 down. Gutted.
But hold onto your dignity, because the good news for you is that you don’t need to attempt to follow up further correspondence with cheapestcomputers’r’us as there’s another avenue you have yet to explore.
As you paid for the computer using your credit card, It is very likely that you can make use of section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act to retrieve your £300 refund. This regulation is used exclusively for credit cards and states that your provider will guarantee you for any purchases made using the card for items costing between £100 and £30,000.
So in terms of a refund, you may as well have purchased the computer from your credit card provider.
Supply Of Goods And Services Act
Think of services as goods.
Thank goodness you knew that services are covered in the same way as goods. It is in fact up to the garage to provide a service that is carried out with reasonable care and skill.
To sum up, you can demand to have the issue put right, either by the garage that failed to solve the problem in the first place, or charge the first garage to pay for another mechanic to sort it.
This applies throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but has some small differences in Scotland.
Denied Boarding Regulations
Airliners can’t get away with messing with your schedule.
What you should know: The European Union recently brought in new regulations that have angered some sectors of the airline industry.
If upon arriving at the airport, you are able to meet the boarding criteria, for example checking-in on-time with a valid ticket, but you were denied entry onto a flight – or the flight is cancelled, fight your corner, because you have rights!
To begin with, you are entitled to refund within seven days, or another return flight to your destination.
You are also entitled to be at least fed and watered. The EU’s regulations state that “refreshments, meals, hotel accommodation, transport between the airport and place of accommodation, two free telephone calls, telex or fax messages, or e-mails” must be provided, with different levels of ‘care’ depending on how much you have been put out.
As well as the above, if your flight is cancelled and you were due to fly 1,500km+, you can claim compensation of 250 euros, and 400 euros for flights within the European Union of 1,500km or more. All other flights between 1,500 – 3,500km can also provide 400 euros compensation.
However, if you were informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before departure, then you cannot claim compensation. This also applies if you are told less than two weeks before, but the airliner arranges another flight causing you only minor delays.
Delays of five hours hours or more entitle customers to get a refund, although this probably won’t help you in your travels.
But unfortunately the legislation back the side of the airliner in some cases. In “extraordinary circumstances”, compensation does not have to be given.
The problem comes when airlines over-use the “extraordinary circumstances” reason for just about anything, from “shortages in crew” to “technical faults”. But worry not, as this shouldn’t be going on for much longer.
Dr Twigg-Flesner said: “The European Court of Justice has cracked down. Technical problems are not extraordinary circumstances.”
This is an EU regulation, so applies across the whole of the European Union.