New consumer rights for faulty digital downloads

The new Consumer Rights Act, which came into force on 1 October 2015, will for the first time give shoppers the clear right to a repair or replacement when web-based products, including downloaded or streamed content such as apps, music, movies and games, fail to work.

In an overhaul of consumer law hailed as the biggest for a generation, statutory rights covering cars and white goods are to be extended to apps and music downloads and enshrined in a single piece of legislation, according to The Guardian.

UK consumers spend £90 billion a month on goods and services, but figures from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills show that last year they grappled with more than 18m problems and were left £4.15 billion out of pocket.

The law was previously unclear regarding digital content, having failed to keep up with the growing demand for streamed and downloaded entertainment, which can sometimes be free or part of a package. 

Shoppers buying anything from toasters to cars now have 30 days to reject a faulty item and demand a full refund, clarifying previously vague rules on how long this period should last. After 30 days, retailers have one opportunity to repair or replace a faulty item. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, the consumer can then claim a refund or a price reduction.

Among other changes are:

  • Making it easier for shoppers to challenge hidden fees and charges, preventing companies from enforcing terms if they are deemed to be unfair – even if they are written in plain language.
  • In the case of a dispute, certified dispute resolution providers are being set up to help as a quicker and cheaper alternative to going through the courts.

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