New rights for consumers when buying digital content


Shoppers are increasingly spending their money on digital content, with more than £2.8 billion spent on downloaded music, video and games in 2014, up 18 per cent from the previous year.

The law will also clarify rules around refunds, repairs or replacements of faulty goods. This includes, for the first time, the creation of a specific timeframe of 30 days for consumers to reject a faulty item and get a full refund.

Research from 2014 shows that shoppers encountered more than 18 million problems with consumer goods and services in the preceding year, leaving people £4.15 billion out of pocket. The Act will make it easier for consumers to know their rights and to shop with confidence, by streamlining eight pieces of legislation into one.

Business Minister Nick Boles said: “Whether it’s downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the Consumer Rights Act makes it easier to understand your rights. UK consumers spend £90 billion a month and it is important they are able to shop with confidence. These changes will also simplify the law for businesses so they can spend less time worrying about unclear and unwieldy regulations.”

Key changes include the fact that this will be the first time that consumers have had clear legal rights for digital content. Specifically, the Act gives consumers the right to repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as online films and games, music downloads, and ebooks.

A 30-day time period to return faulty goods and get a full refund. The law was previously unclear on how long this period should last.

After 30 days, retailers have one opportunity to repair or replace any goods and the consumer can choose whether they want the goods to be repaired or replaced. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, the consumer can then claim a refund or a price reduction if they wish to keep the product.

For the first time there are clear rules for what should happen if a service is not carried out with reasonable care and skill or as agreed with the consumer. The service provider will have to put the service right in line with what was agreed or, if that is not practical, must give some money back.
Consumers being able to challenge terms and conditions which are not fair or are hidden in the small print.

When a problem does occur, it will be easier for disputes to be settled. From 1 October, certified Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers will be available to help when a dispute cannot be settled between the business and the consumer. The system offers a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going through the Courts.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: “Consumer law was crying out to be brought up to date to cope with the requirements and demands of today’s shoppers. Getting a refund or repair, dealing with issues with faulty digital downloads and understanding contracts should now all be much simpler.

“Businesses must ensure their staff are aware of the changes so they’re not caught out short-changing customers or breaking the law.”

Gillian Guy, Chief executive of Citizens Advice said: “Clear consumer rights are good for shoppers and businesses. The new laws coming in today should make it easier for people to understand and use their rights regardless of what goods or services they buy.

“Businesses have a real opportunity to show they value their customers by upholding their new rights and signing up to an alternative dispute resolution scheme. This means people have an independent body they can raise a complaint with if they haven’t managed to resolve their issue with the trader.”

Free and easy to understand information is available online to help businesses understand the changes, including via the Business Companion website. Businesses can also speak directly to an advisor about the changes via the Business Support Helpline.