What Are My Rights as a Consumer?

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Christmas is the busiest shopping time of the year and more people than ever use the internet to research products and make their purchases.  Sadly, things can go wrong with offline and online purchases.  So, what are your rights as a consumer if something does go wrong with a transaction?

The basics

To start with, all goods and services sold come under The Consumer Rights Act 2015.  This came into effect in October 2015 and replaced three pieces of legislation – the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act.  The aim of the new act was to make it simpler and clearer what consumer rights were for both buyers and sellers.

Product quality

One of the main pieces of the Act is called product quality.  All products must be of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose as well being as described by the seller.  This rule also covers digital content as well as physical ones.  It breaks down to mean:

  • Satisfactory quality – when you receive goods they should be faulty or damaged.  You can also check what counts as satisfactory when making a purchase
  • Fit for purpose – this means if something is bought to do a job, then it does it
  • As described – this means the item matches the description used to sell it

Dealing with faulty products

But what is the process if the goods you receive are faulty under one of the three criteria laid out in the act?

There are several options available to you under the act and also some companies offer extra cover.  PayPal, for example, offer buyer protection that allows you to make a claim through them if something isn’t right.  You can email them or use the phone number for PayPal UK customer service to find out more about the service.

You should always approach the seller rather than the manufacturer about any faulty goods as they are the ones who carried out the transaction.  You also need to be aware of the rules around the time that has passed since the purchase was made.

30 day right to reject

Under the Act, you have a legal right to reject any foods that are unsatisfactory in quality, unfit for purpose or not as described and receive a full refund as long as you do it within 30 days of when you purchased the product.  After the 30 day period, you are not automatically entitled to the refund, but some sellers will offer it under certain circumstances.

The 30 day period doesn’t apply to downloaded products such as games, apps or music.  But you can ask for a repair or replacement if these items have some kind of fault or them or even a reduction in the cost.  Perishable goods also have their own rules depending on the use-by date.

Repair or replace

After the 30 day period is up, you can approach the retailer and give them one opportunity to repair or replace goods that don’t meet the criteria.  You can give a preference, but most sellers will have their policies laid out as to what they do in this situation.

You can keep the product if this is unsuccessful and still claim a refund or price reduction.  You can also get a partial refund, repair or replacement in certain situations:

  • Cost of the repair or replacement is disproportionate to the cost of the goods
  • It is impossible to repair or replace
  • It would cause significant inconvenience
  • It would take an unreasonably long time

Should the repair not work, or the replacement also be faulty, you can demand a refund of 100% of the price paid.  You can also request another repair attempt if you want to keep the product.

Six months out

Under the Act, if there is a fault within the first six months, it is assumed to have been there since the time of purchase unless the seller can prove otherwise.  This means the seller needs to prove the fault wasn’t there when you bought the product – rather than you needing to prove that it was.

Retailers can’t make deductions from the refund in the first six months if they attempt to repair and this is unsuccessful, or a replacement isn’t any better.  The only exception to this rule is motor vehicles where a reasonable reduction can be made after the first 30 days.

After six months

Finally, after six months if something goes wrong, you then have to prove it is a fault from the time of purchase, not since then.  This might mean an expert opinion or evidence to present to the seller.  Failing this, you can take the matter to a small claims court within six years of the purchase.

Delivery rules

As more of us use delivery for our shopping, there are also rules in the Act about delivery rights.  For example, the retailer is responsible for the goods until they are physically in your possession or that of someone you have appointed (this might be a neighbour if you aren’t home).  The delivery firm aren’t liable for the goods.

The default delivery period is 30 days unless a longer period has been stated.  If the item isn’t received within 30 days or that date, then you have the following options:

  • If the delivery was time sensitive, say for a birthday, and that date has now passed, you can terminate the purchase and get a refund
  • If the delivery wasn’t time sensitive but another reasonable delivery time can’t be agreed, you can also able to get a full refund

Unfair terms

Lastly, the Act protects against what is known as ‘unfair contract terms’ in an effort to avoid hidden charges or fees that are added to an order.  All terms need to be prominent and transparent in order for them to be classed as fair.  Examples of unfair terms can include hidden charges in small print, something that is against legal rights or disproportionate default charges.


About the author /

Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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