Your legal rights as a consumer
When you buy goods or services, in person or online, you're protected by the law on consumer rights.
The Consumer Rights Act (2015) makes your rights as a consumer easier to understand and covers online shopping as well as goods and services bought in shops. If you've bought something and it's broken, doesn't work, or isn't what you'd expected, find out here when you can claim, and who can help you with your complaint.
What are your rights?
You can make a claim for a refund, repair or replacement when the product you've bought (it could be an object or a service) doesn't meet these three standards:
- Satisfactory quality: The product shouldn't be damaged or faulty when you receive it.
- Fit for purpose: You should be able to use it for what the seller says it will do (its purpose), whether that's their statement when you buy it, or an answer to your question. For instance, a tin opener should open tins.
- As described: It should match its description when you bought it. For example, something sold as made of metal shouldn't be mainly plastic, or clothes shouldn't be a different size.
If a service isn't provided 'with reasonable care and skill' or 'as agreed', the provider must bring it into line with what was agreed with the customer. If this isn't practical, such as when a haircut's too short, they must give some money back.
Travel: It's also possible to claim when public transport services are poor, for example when a seat you've paid for is unavailable or there's no toilet accessible to you on a long journey.
What are your rights?
Under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), customers now have a clear right to the repair or replacement of faulty digital content, including online films and games, music downloads and ebooks. For goods and services bought online, your rights are the same as if you'd bought them from a shop or other seller (see above), except that your right to make a claim starts when you receive the item.
You can make a claim for a refund, repair or replacement when the digital content you've bought doesn't meet these three standards:
- Satisfactory quality: It shouldn't be damaged or faulty when you receive it.
- Fit for purpose: You should be able to use it for what the seller says it will do (its purpose), whether that's their statement when you buy it, or an answer to your question. For instance, an audio track should play, and a game shouldn't infect your computer with a virus.
- As described: It should match its description when you bought it. For example, a film should be in the format you chose when you bought it.
If a service isn't provided 'with reasonable care and skill' or 'as agreed', the seller must bring it into line with what was agreed with the customer. If this isn't practical, they must give some money back.
Is there a time limit?
There are now clear time limits for you to ask for refunds, repairs or replacements:
Refund: You can get a refund up to 30 days from when you bought the product, if it was from a UK seller. You can also get a repair or replacement if you prefer.
Repair or replacement: You can get your product repaired or replaced up to six months from your purchase. The retailer has one chance to make the repair. If you're still unhappy, you then have a right to a refund.
You can still get a repair or refund after six months, but the seller has the right to deduct some money for the use you've had from the product. You'll have to prove that it was faulty when you got it.
What else does the Consumer Rights Act cover?
The Act also covers unfair terms in contracts, like charges hidden in the small print. Key terms must be 'prominent and transparent'.
It's always better to get help before making your claim (see below). But if you and the seller can't come to an agreement, the new Alternative Dispute Resolution service can offer a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going to court.
Where can you get help with your claim?
For help in making a claim, or for more information about the Consumer Rights Act of 2015, which tells you about your all rights when buying different things, go to the Citizens Advice website or phone them on 0345 404 0506 or 0345 404 0505 (Welsh language).
Have you been pressured into buying something?
High-pressure selling, where the sales rep tricks or bullies someone into buying goods or services they don't really want or need, is another area where the law protects you. Read our information on high-pressure sales and what you can do to keep yourself safe from them.
Scams are another related hard-selling technique used to get your money unfairly and often illegally. See our advice on how to protect yourself from scams.
It's a good idea to shop around before you buy.
Reputable online reviews sites (like Which?) can be a great place to start. For accessible household goods, mobility aids, and cars, we suggest starting with RiDC's Features & Reviews section, where we have information on what to look for when you're shopping and recommend products that come out top in our unbiased user testing.