As confusion surrounded the potential administration of airline Flybe last week, many consumers understandably found themselves panicking about the security of their bookings and hard-earned money. Although the Government intervened and assisted the airline before it was too late, many will undoubtedly remain cautious when booking holidays in the near future. With that in mind, the team at consumeradvice.scot have collated some top tips to make sure you don’t get short-changed when making purchases.
Being forewarned and forearmed is the best way to ensure that you do not lose out. As consumers, we are protected by legislation which ensures an element of recourse in situations where purchases are made that are substandard or faulty. Protection is also offered for certain payment methods such as credit and debit cards, in circumstances where companies enter administration.
At consumeradvice.scot, we believe that the key to peace of mind is awareness about the legal protections that are available to you. As such, we want to outline key pieces of legislation that are in place to protect consumers when making purchases.
There are two major pieces of legislation to be aware of; The Consumer Rights Act (2015) and the Consumer Credit Act (specifically, Section 75 of this Act). Chargeback schemes through banks and building societies are also important processes to be aware of, particularly in situations where companies do not provide the service that they have promised or the seller unexpectedly goes into administration.
The Consumer Rights Act (2015)
This Act replaced three vital pieces of consumer rights legislation that were previously in place; the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act.
The Consumer Rights Act (2015) ensures that consumers receive products that are of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and match the description made in any advertisements.
This Act covers consumers against the retailer that they purchased the product from and not the manufacturer. Timescales in these circumstances may also be a concern, as the rights differ after 30 days have passed.
Purchase made in a store – 30-day period begins when you take ownership of the item(s).
Purchases made online – 30-day period begins when the item arrives with you. Rights to refunds do not apply to downloaded items (apps, games, digital music – the rules around these items are slightly different – the seller must repair, replace or offer a reduction).
Returns and Refunds – Legally, you must act quickly to ensure your right to a refund. After owning the item for 30 days, if it develops a fault, then the retailer will not be legally obliged to provide you with a refund.
Items such as food and drink (perishables) – The period for refunds on these items is dependent on how long is considered reasonable to expect these items to last. Items would be expected to last until at least their use-by date if handled and stored properly.
Over 30-days since – You must give the seller of the item one opportunity to repair or replace the goods or digital content which is not fit for purpose or as described at the point of sale.
If the seller’s replacement is not satisfactory, then you can claim a refund or price reduction if you elect to retain the product.
There are certain situations when you would be entitled to a full or partial refund as opposed to a repair or replacement item. The Act sets these stipulations out as –
- The cost of the repair or replacement is disproportionate to the value of the goods or digital item.
- A repair or replacement is impossible.
- A repair or replacement would cause the consumer significant inconvenience.
- A repair would take an unreasonably long amount of time
If you are not looking for a refund, even after a first attempt on the part of the retailer to fix the goods, then you can request further repairs.
Timescales are vital when ascertaining responsibility. Within the first six months, any defects or issues with items are presumed to have been there since you, as the consumer, have taken ownership of the item unless the seller can prove otherwise.
The responsibility lies with the retailer to provide evidence that the fault was not there when you purchased the item. This could be in the form of photos of the item, but ultimately, the responsibility lies with the seller to prove this. This ‘burden of proof’ is not on you as the consumer.
If the seller cannot rectify the problem, or offer a replacement, then you are entitled to a full refund, or partial refund if you choose to retain the item.
The rules when it comes to vehicles differ slightly. In these instances, the seller has the right to a reasonable deduction for any use you have had within the first 30 days after purchase.
If it has been six months or more since the items were purchased, the ‘burden of proof’ lies with the consumer to prove that the product was faulty at the time that ownership of the item changed (i.e. the time that ownership transferred – see the previous section for different rules on ownership depending on method of purchase).
In this instance, you should first discuss this with the seller, highlighting the fault or defect, and if they are unwilling to accept your claim, obtain relevant evidence, such as expert testimony through a report and take the claim to a small claims court for faulty goods if the seller refuses a repair or replacement. You can do this up to five years after purchase in Scotland and up to six years for the rest of the UK.
Communication with the seller is an important aspect when pursuing a claim or dispute. However, there are situations when this is not possible. In circumstances where you have not received an item or service that you have paid for, or the company that has provided said product or service enters administration, the ability to correspond with the responsible parties is obviously more difficult.
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (1974) & Chargeback Schemes
The Consumer Credit Act (specifically Section 75), covers you for purchases on Credit Cards in excess of £100.
Anything paid on credit or debit card can be attempted to be reclaimed through the bank. Products or services purchased on a credit card in excess of £100, may be eligible for a refund from the credit card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Credit card providers become ‘joint and severally liable’ for any purchases in this instance, and as such, become jointly responsible for the non-provision of the product or service that has been paid for.
You can contact the card provider and explain the situation and advise that you wish to make a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Alternatively, claims may be possible through the chargeback scheme through your bank in circumstances of purchases under £100 or on debit card. In these instances, you can contact the financial institution and explain the situation and request a refund to your account through the chargeback scheme. This is only available if the retailer refuses to provide a refund or is unable to help.
Financial institutions that are part of the scheme will do their best to help, particularly in one-off situations when the payment has been authorised. However, some banks and lenders may make the case that the payment was authorised, and as such you are responsible. In these circumstances, negotiation is key and ensuring that you have all the facts to hand will help to make your case.
The difference between Section 75 and chargeback is that the latter is not enforced by law and is a scheme that is voluntary between card providers and issuers. Section 75 is only applicable if the purchase cost is between £100 and £30,000, However, chargeback schemes work for credit card transactions of any value, including debit and prepaid card transactions.
These safeguarding measures are in place to ensure that consumers are protected. Arming yourself with this information is vital in ensuring that you can save money, get what you are due in situations where the motives of the seller or retailer are dubious, and stop anyone wishing to detrimentally impact consumers.
If you would like more advice or guidance on your rights when making purchases, or on any consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot.