Buyer's rights - business-to-consumer sales

Buyer's rights - business-to-consumer sales

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Like business buyers, consumers also have the remedies of damages and the right to reject the goods and end the contract (see Buyer's rights – business-to-business sales). But they also have rights that are given only to consumers.

In contracts made before the commencement of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (1 October 2015), the consumer had rights under the Sale of Goods Act to require the seller to repair or replace the goods or to reduce the price.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 places the same consumer remedies into a tiered system, and specifies the order in which they can be exercised. Consumers with contracts made after 1 October 2015 can now only end the contract for a breach of one of your obligations under the Act by exercising one of the rights of rejection given by the Act.

Consumer remedies under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Right to reject if seller doesn't have right to sell (Sections 19 and 20)

If you don't have the right to sell the goods, the buyer can reject the goods and claim a refund.

Short-term right to reject (Sections 19, 20 and 22)

The consumer is entitled to exercise the short-term right to reject the goods if they:

  • aren't of satisfactory quality, or
  • aren't fit for a special purpose indicated by the consumer, or
  • don't match the description, sample or model provided, or
  • don't conform because digital content included doesn't conform to the contract.

This means the consumer must reject the goods and treat the contract as having ended within 30 days after all of the following has happened:

  • ownership has been transferred to the consumer
  • the goods have been delivered to the consumer
  • you've notified the consumer that you've installed the goods (if needed) or taken some other action (if needed).

This time limit can be extended by agreement between you and the consumer, but can't be shortened.

This short-term right to reject doesn't apply if:

  • the goods don't conform to the contract merely because they've been installed incorrectly
  • you've breached a term that's in the contract as a result of being contained in the pre-contract information, or
  • you've breached an express term of the contract.

The time limit for this right to reject will stop running if the consumer requests a repair or replacement instead, and will start running again when the repaired or replaced goods are delivered to the consumer. For perishable goods, the time limit is only as long as the goods can reasonably be expected to last.

To exercise the right to reject, the consumer must tell you they're rejecting the goods. For the short-term right to reject, it's up to the consumer to prove the goods didn't conform to the contract on delivery. You must refund the money paid without undue delay, and at the latest within 14 days of agreeing to the refund. The refund must be made by the same means as the payment was made, unless the consumer agrees otherwise. You can't charge a fee for making the refund. If the consumer had agreed to return the goods, they must do so, otherwise they must make the goods available for you to collect. You must pay reasonable costs of the return, whoever returns them.

Right to repair/replacement (Section 23)

Instead of rejecting the goods, the consumer could ask you to repair or replace them. You must then carry out the request within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, and bear the cost of the repair or replacement. However you don't need to repair or replace if it would be impossible or unreasonable to do so, taking into account facts such as the value of the goods.

If the consumer requests a repair, they can't then change their mind and reject the goods or require you to replace them until you've had a reasonable time to repair them. Similarly, if the consumer requests a replacement, they can't reject the goods or require you to repair them until you've had a reasonable time to replace them.

The time (30 days) for exercising the short-term right to reject stops running when the consumer requests the repair or replacement. It starts running again when the goods are returned to the consumer after you've attempted the repair or replacement. The consumer can then exercise their short-term right to reject by the later of:

  • the end of the resumed 30-day rejection period, or
  • 7 days after the goods have been returned to them.

Alternatively, the customer can exercise the final right to reject or right to a price reduction.

Final right to reject or right to price reduction (Sections 20 and 24)

This right only arises after the consumer has requested a repair or replacement.

The consumer may exercise the final right to reject or the right to a price reduction if they've requested a repair or replacement, and:

  • after one attempt by you to do so, the goods still don't comply with the contract, or
  • it's impossible or disproportionate to repair or replace the goods, or
  • you haven't repaired or replaced within a reasonable time, or done so without significant inconvenience to the consumer.

The consumer can choose rejection or price reduction but not both. If the consumer chooses the final right to reject, they'll reject the goods and receive a refund. Or they can choose to keep the goods and ask for a price reduction, which may result in a refund. The price reduction should be an appropriate amount depending on the circumstances, up to the full price.

Unlike the short-term right to reject, there's no time limit for the final right to reject. However, the goods are presumed not to have complied with the contract at the time of delivery if they don't comply with it within 6 months of delivery. This means that if the consumer complains of a defect within 6 months of the sale, the seller will normally have the burden of proving that this defect didn't exist at the time of the sale. The consumer will have to prove the defect existed if they complain more than 6 months after the sale.

If the consumer exercises the final right to reject within 6 months of the sale, you can't make a deduction for use of the goods from the refund, except in a sale of a motor vehicle.

To exercise the right to reject, the consumer must tell you they're rejecting the goods. As with the short-term right to reject, you must make the refund within 14 days of agreeing to do so, bear the cost of returns and collect the goods unless the consumer has agreed to return them. Refunds must be made in the same way as the original payment unless agreed otherwise.