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Consumers ‘poorly-informed’ about their rights

Tahmina Mannan
Written By:
Tahmina Mannan

Half of Brits are ‘ill-equipped and poorly-informed’ when it comes to knowing their consumer rights, says a new report.

According to a survey by comparison site uSwitch.com, while 4% of Brits claim to have a strong grasp of their rights, almost half admit to being in the dark, leaving them at risk of losing out.

The report found almost three in ten consumers have lost time or money through not understanding their consumer rights. 41% think consumer rights are complicated, 39 % say they are full of loopholes and ambiguities and 24% think they are peppered with legal jargon.

Almost half (47%) think that more needs to be done to ensure consumers understand their entitlements.

The report found that consumers learn about their rights through the media (52%), trial and error (33%) and from other people (31%) – just 13% learn from their parents and 5% through school

The Government’s New Consumer Rights Bill will improve and update consumer law, but won’t tackle the biggest issue which is lack of knowledge and understanding, the report concluded.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People are feeling the pinch on their finances so it’s important that, if something they buy is not right, they can get it sorted without having to spend another penny.

“All too often shoppers and sales staff aren’t quite clear about what people’s legal rights are when it comes to getting refunds or exchanges.

“For consumers to get their money back or replacements for faulty goods – they need to know and understand what their rights are. That’s why, as part of the Government’s overhaul of consumer law, we want to see all retailers display consumer rights information at checkouts.”

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “The Government’s plans to simplify consumer law and to bring it up-to-date are a step in the right direction. However, better protection will only work if consumers actually know about it and understand it too.

“The Government is in danger of missing the bigger opportunity here, which is to ensure that all consumers are educated about their rights and are made fully aware of what they are entitled to. This will not only help them save time and money, but more confident consumers should be able to make better purchasing decisions, which will ultimately help boost competition too.”

How the new rules protect you

When the draft Consumer Rights Bill becomes law it will give consumers improved powers through:

1. A set 30 day time period for when consumers can return faulty goods and get a full refund

2. If you seek a refund within six months of receipt of the goods, and if there isn’t a clear second-hand value for the goods, then you get a full refund. If there is a second hand value for the faulty item the refund can be reduced to take account of the use you have had. For example, there is an active second-hand market in cars so a trader would be entitled to reduce the refund to take account of the use that you have had of the car.

3. After the first six months, the refund may be reduced to take account of the use you have had of the goods.

4. Online shoppers will have the right to demand a repair or replacement of faulty digital content such as film and music downloads, online games and e-books.

5. You will be able to demand shoddy work done by tradesmen to be redone if the work carried out is substandard or work or request a reduction in price.