Today (15 March) is World Consumer Rights Day, which is meant to promote the basic rights of all shoppers and highlight market abuses.
To mark the day, we’ve rounded up some of the vital UK consumer rights you can flex to escape mid-contract price hikes, get your money back if a firm goes bust and for occasions where you just change your mind.
Your rights in a nutshell
Shoppers have the basic right to goods and services that are of a satisfactory quality, that are as described, fit for purpose and last for a reasonable amount of time.
When things go wrong or you think you may have been treated unfairly you might be able to get your money back or a replacement.
You just need to know your rights set out by things like the Consumer Rights Act, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act and the Sales of Goods Act.
Here are a few little-know rules to highlight your rights.
You don’t need a receipt to return faulty goods
You are entitled to a 30-day period from the date of purchase (or delivery) to return goods to the retailer, who will then be obliged to provide a full refund – even if you don’t have a receipt.
This is known as the ‘short-term right to reject'.
‘Faulty’ goods are defined as those which are not of satisfactory quality, not fit for purpose, not sold as described, or those that don’t match the goods seen by the customer before the purchase is made.
You can ask for a refund or a replacement (provided you can produce some proof of purchase, such as a bank statement).
You may also be able to get a refund within six months if you believe they were faulty when sold.
The shop must prove they weren’t faulty when they were sold within six months of the purchase, but after this time the onus is on you to prove they were.
You don’t have to stand for shoddy service
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that you have the right to receive services that are performed with “reasonable care and skill”, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable price.
If the service you get from a builder for example is not up to scratch or performed as agreed you can demand for it to be carried out again free of charge or at a reduced price.
You can reject mid-contract price hikes
Ofcom rules protect people with fixed landline, broadband or mobile phone contracts taken out from 23 January 2014 from unexpected mid-contract price hikes.
The rules state users should be able to exit a contract penalty free if a provider increases the monthly costs they weren’t warned about when signing up by more than the Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of inflation.
If providers want to increase prices, they must give customers one month’s notice and if the rise exceeds inflation allow them to cancel penalty-free.
If you are outside the minimum term of your contract you can leave your provider by giving notice with no penalty even if the rise is in line with RPI.
Take a look at How to cancel a UK mobile phone contract and switch providers and How to switch your phone, broadband and TV packages for more.
Your digital content must be up to scratch
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force in October 2015 and included more robust rights on digital content.
It states that a customer that purchases digital goods that are faulty, don’t live up to their description or don’t perform the function as described are entitled to a full refund or repair or replacement without delay.
If some of the content works but other parts don’t, the act also gives you the right to receive a refund for the proportion of non-working content.
If digital content causes damage to a device you own, or to other content held on that device, and it is the trader’s fault, the device must be repaired within a reasonable timeframe without further cost to you.
You have extra rights when shopping from home
When shopping online or through the phone or catalogues you have more rights compared to going into a shop thanks to the Concumer Contract Regulations.
These give you the right of 14 days to cancel your order after receiving it and 14 days to send most things back for a full refund – even if there’s no fault and you’ve changed your mind.
You have rights on train compensation
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you have stronger rights on train compensation and challenging it.
You are entitled to receive any compensation you get from a train company in the same way you paid for it. Previously some firms only offered vouchers.
This compensation must be repaid within 14 days and if you are unhappy with the compensation offered you can take the company to the small claims court.
All train companies bar three (which will be phased in during the franchise renewal) operate a Delay Repay scheme.
You can find out more about the new rules in Consumer Rights Act: claiming for delayed or cancelled train journeys and about how to claim in UK train delays and cancellations: how to claim refunds and compensation.
You get extra rights shopping with a credit card
When you shop with your credit card you can get extra protection on goods and services through Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
This states that a credit card company is jointly liable with a retailer on purchases that cost between £100 and £30,000.
The protection applies to the total cost of the service so you can benefit even if you paid less than £100, for example as a deposit on a holiday, and kicks in when the contract you have with a supplier has been breached or misrepresented.
This might be if the item you bought is faulty or damaged, if your supplier goes bust and can’t fulfil your order or if the item is unsatisfactory.
Section 75 protection does not apply to debit card purchases so it’s worth thinking about using a credit card on purchases worth over £100 to ensure you are protected if things go wrong.
Check out: Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act: your rights on refunds for more.
You could be entitled to a repair/refund for up to six years
The 1979 Sale of Goods Act offers protection on older purchases.
It gives you the right to a repair or refund on certain items for up to six years after you made the purchase provided you bought them on or before 30 September 2015 (later purchases protection fall under the Consumer Rights Act 2015).
The act states that an item that a repair or refund could be due if the item in questions should reasonably be expected to last a long time.
This is open to interpretation, so you could argue a pricey washing machine should work for more than one or two years but it might be difficult to make the same case for a hairdryer.
To learn more, read our guide to the Sale of Goods Act.