Businesses get ready for new consumer laws, reports Department for Business Innovation & Skills

Businesses across the country are getting ready for new consumer laws that take effect next month.

From the 1 October, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 will update the laws governing every business selling directly to consumers. The changes streamline eight pieces of legislation into one and clarify businesses’ responsibilities to their customers.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are preparing for the changes by reviewing their returns and complaints policies, checking their terms and conditions are compliant and training staff.

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

Business Minister Nick Boles said:  “I know that UK businesses care deeply about treating their customers well, because frankly, it makes business sense. That’s why we’re simplifying the law to make it easier for hardworking businesses to understand their responsibilities to customers and allowing consumers to shop with confidence.”

The key changes include:

  • A 30-day time period to return faulty goods and get a full refund
  • Consumers having a clear right to demand that substandard services are redone or failing that receive a price reduction
  • Businesses getting written notice for routine inspections by public enforcers, such as Trading Standards
  • Changes to make it easier for consumers and small businesses to get compensation when a business is acting in a way which isn’t competitive
  • Consumers being able to challenge terms and conditions which are not fair or are hidden in the small print
  • New rights for consumers to get a repair or a replacement of faulty digital content such as online films, games, music downloads and e-books

When a problem does occur, the Government is making it easier for disputes to be settled. From October, certified third party mediators, called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers will be available to all businesses to help when a dispute cannot be settled directly with the consumer. The system offers a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going through the Courts.  Until now, the service has only been available in certain sectors. Once the internal complaint process is exhausted, businesses must give the consumer details of a certified ADR provider and tell the consumer if they are willing to use them. Businesses do not have to use ADR unless they operate in a sector where existing legislation makes it mandatory such as financial services.