The Consumer Rights Act applies to the whole of the United Kingdom.. Where the trader pursues or directs his activities in or to the United Kingdom or the consumer is originally resident in the UK, UK consumer protection law applies. It is not possible to contract out of most consumer protection.
The consumer provisions apply between traders and a consumer. They cover the supply of goods, services and digital content pursuant to a contract. The contract may be written or verbal. Almost every sale will be by way of contract.
Traders may not contract out of the below consumer statutory rights. A term which seeks to prevent the consumer from having access to the consumer rights and remedies or making exercise less attractive to the consumer either by making it more difficult or onerous or placing the consumer at disadvantage after doing so, is deemed void.
Except as provided by the below provisions, a contract to supply goods is not to be treated as including any other term about the quality or fitness of goods unless they are expressly included in the contract.
Traders are persons acting for purposes relating to a business, craft or profession. Person who trades through another person acting in the trader’s name or in his behalf is liable for the actions of his representatives/agents.
A Trader may be a person or a company. It may be a charity or governmental entity. Such bodies are subject to the legislation in so far as they carry on business.
A consumer must be a natural person, an individual. The consumer must be acting wholly or mainly outside his trade business or profession. Traders enjoy the protection of the implied terms and conditions of the Sale of Goods Act. They are not subject to the same mandatory rules against contracting out that applies in consumer cases.Consumers are deemed not to include persons who purchase goods second-hand in an auction in this context.
Sale of Goods
Goods means every physical movable thing. They does not include immovable property such as land and buildings. Goods can include utilities such as gas, electricity and water sold in limited volumes or quantities such as by way of a battery, gas cylinder et cetera.
Digital content includes data produced or supplied in digital form. If it is applied in a tangible medium such as a DVD, it enjoys the digital content is subject to similar rights under the consumer protection legislation as applied to goods and services.
The legislation applies to a contract to supply goods. There are certain minor exclusions such as in relation to contracts for notes and coins for use as currency and sale of goods by way of enforcement under the authority of law.
The legislation does not apply where there is no consideration, i.e., a price or something given in return. Separate and almost equivalent protection is afforded to a contract for the transfer of goods as may occur in the event of barter or exchange.
There may be a sales contract with the trader who manufactures or produces the goods.
There is a sales contract notwithstanding that the goods are paid for by instalments. The legislation extends to hire purchase and the hiring of goods, and to a contract for the transfer of goods which is neither a sales contract nor a hire purchase agreement.
Implied Term re Satisfactory Quality
Goods supplied under a contract to supply goods must be of satisfactory quality. The quality of goods is satisfactory if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory taking account of any description of the goods, the price or other consideration for the goods if relevant and all the other relevant circumstances set out below.
The matter the satisfactory quality of goods includes
- their state and condition.
- their fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied
- their appearance and finish
- their freedom from minor defects.
- their safety.
- their durability.
The relevant circumstances include any public statement about the specific characteristics of the goods made by the trader, producer or any of their representatives. This includes in particular, a public statement made in an advertising or labelling.
A public statement is not relevant for the above purposes if the trader can show that
- when the contract was made, the trader was not, and could not reasonably have been aware of the statement.
- before the contract was made, the statement had been publicly withdrawn or, to the extent that it contained anything that was incorrect or misleading, it had been publicly corrected, or the consumer’s decision to contract for the goods could not have been influenced by the statement.
The above term does not cover anything which makes the quality of the goods unsatisfactory.
Terms about the quality of the goods may be treated as included as a matter of custom or circumstances.
The implied term does not apply to a defect
- which is specifically drawn to the consumer’s attention before the contract is made.
- where the consumer examines the goods before the contract is made, which that examination ought to reveal, or
- in the case of a contract to supply goods by sample, which would have been apparent on a reasonable examination of the sample.
If a consumer requires goods for a specific purpose and this is made known to the trader in advance, then goods must be fit for that purpose. This is unless the consumer does not rely, or it will be unreasonable for the consumer to rely on the skill or judgment of the trader.
Where goods are purchased with the assistance of credit organised by the seller such as in a store, the store commonly sells the goods for the finance company in order for them to sell it to the consumer. In this case, if the consumer makes the purpose known to the sales person who organises the credit, the goods must be fit for that purpose. The purpose need not have been made known to the actual seller/credit provider.
Implied Term as to Description
When goods are supplied by description, they must be as described. Goods may be supplied by description even if they are available for the consumer to see and choose such as on the shelves of a shop.
The Consumer Contract (Information Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations require certain information to be given to consumers before they are bound by a contract. This includes certain information regarding the characteristics of the goods. It is provided that this information forms part of the contract for the purpose of consumer rights and remedies.Changes to the information before entering the contract or at a later date are not effective unless agreed by both trader and consumer.
Any other information provided by the trader prior to contract of a similar nature regarding the characteristics of the goods but which does not relate to the main characteristics, also form part of the contract. In this case there may be a right to recover part of the price but other remedies such as rejection and replacement will not generally be available.
The trader is not able to change this information without the consumer’s agreement . The pre-contract information may itself contemplate changes.
The information must be proven correct when the contract was made at a minimum. These provisions apply to a contract for the sale of second-hand goods at public auction. If the individual can attend the auction at present also the provisions do not apply to this scenario.
Conformity with Sample
If the consumer enters a contract for the purchase of goods on the basis of a sample, the final goods delivered must match the sample. There is an exception for differences which are brought to the consumer’s attention before the contract is made which do not breach the requirement.
Where goods are held out as a sample then there is a breach of the provision if the goods do not match that sample or if they have a defect which makes their quality unsatisfactory and which the consumer would not have discovered by a reasonable examination of the sample goods.
If the trader provides a model of the goods then the goods received must match the model except for differences brought to the consumer’s attention before the contract is made.
Where goods are supplied and installed by the trader or where the installation is done under the same trader’s responsibility, then if the installation was done incorrectly then the remedies relating to the goods apply except for the short term right to reject goods which do not conform to a contract
- if the installation of the goods forms part of the contract,
- the goods are installed by the trader or under the trader’s responsibility and
- the goods are incorrectly installed.
Implied Term As to Title & Charges
The trader promises in the contract that he has the right title of ownership for the goods and the right to transfer possession of them when the contract requires transfer of ownership and possession. General rule is that the ownership transfers when the parties intended. Under a contract of sale, there is a presumption that same rule applies but there are presumptions as to when property is to pass.
No other person is to have any right over the goods unless the consumer is made aware of this prior to the contract being made. The consumer’s possessions must not be disturbed by anyone with rights over the goods. These rights do not apply to hire contracts where by definition ,other parties will have rights to the extent of the general rights of the hirer,
This does not affect the special protection under the Hire Purchase Act 1964 whereby a purchaser of a motor vehicle subject to a hire purchase or condition sale agreement obtains, title provided he acts in good faith without notice of the agreement.
Remedies for Non-Conformity
A consumer may reject goods if the wrong quantity is delivered. If the consumer chooses to accept the goods, he must pay at the contract rate. If more than the contract amount is delivered, the consumer may reject the excess and keep the contracted amount.
The right to reject is different to that under the common law principle of whether there is a fundamental breach of contract entitling required to terminate the contract entirely for all other purposes.
A consumer is not required to accept delivery by instalments unless he agrees to do so. If he does not agree or one or more deliveries is defective, then depending on the circumstances, the consumer may have a right to damages or to reject the goods in the instalments or treat the whole contract as ended. Which of these rights applies, depends on the particular circumstances and must be considered case by case.
If the parties have agreed that the goods are to be delivered in instalments, the following provision applies to each instalment. Unless a separate agreement is reached between the consumer and trader, the trader must deliver the goods to the consumer and must do so without delay within 30 days after the contract is made.
The consumer may be entitled to terminate the contract if immediate delivery was essential. Otherwise, the trader must deliver again within a period specified by the consumer.
In many cases where a consumer purchases goods, immediate delivery is essential so that in these cases, non-compliance would entitle the consumer to terminate the contract. Where the delivery of the goods or deliver within the initial time frame is essential either expressly or by implication, the consumer may treat the contract as terminated if the trader fails to meet the initial delivery period. In this case, the trader need not be given a further opportunity to deliver.
In other cases, if the trader fails to deliver on an agreed date or within 30 days, the consumer may state a further reasonable time frame between within which the trader is required to deliver the goods. If the trader fails to deliver in this time frame, the consumer may terminate the contract.
The consumer may choose to reject some of the goods rather than treating the contract as an end where the goods have not been delivered. The consumer may cancel the order for some or all of the outstanding goods if some goods are delivered in time but others are outstanding.
Loss, Arbitration & Applicable Laws
The risk of loss in relation to the goods lies with the trader until the consumer has physical possession of them. Risk transfers to the consumer at this point. If the consumer stipulates a trader must use a carrier of its choosing and the carrier was not offered by the trader as an option, the risk passes to the consumer at the time the goods are passed to the carrier.
Agreements to submit disputes to arbitration are not covered by the restriction on excluding or restricting liability. A term requiring the consumer to take disputes exclusively to arbitration may be potentially regarded as unfair.
The Arbitration Act provides that a term which constitutes an arbitration agreement is automatically unfair if the claim is for less than the amount specified by ministerial order (currently £5,000)
The parties to a contract may agree that the contract is to be governed by the laws of any country. The UK consumer protection rules under a sale contract where a contract has a close connection with the UK.
Even if the contract states that the law of another non-EU state applies, the consumer must not be deprived of his protection under EU consumer law where a contract has a close connection with a member state.
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