Consumer rights advice

Consumer Rights Advice

Many of us are not sure what our consumer rights actually are. For example if we take an item back with a receipt are we always entitled to a refund if we are within the terms stated on the receipt, or are we only entitled to an exchange?

Well a lot depends on exactly what you have bought and so here is a consumers rights guide to help you.

Clothes and Shoe Purchases

Unless the item is faulty or not as described (ie: waterproof when it isn't) then you do not really have any consumer rights. So if you buy an item and it simply doesn't fit then by law you have no rights for a refund, exchange or credit note. Having said this most retailers will actually let you bring an item back but the way to be sure is to check before you buy, and if a shop assistant confirms that you can bring an item back if it doesn't fit then make sure that your receipt also states this, just to be sure.

Read more Consumer Purchase Rights.

Building Work and Home Improvement Purchases

Be aware of the difference between an estimate and a quote. If a builder gives you an estimate, he is more or less free to increase this, as it is just what it says, an estimate of the cost, not an actual cost. A quote is a fixed price which cannot be changed once you have accepted it. Even if the builder has to carry out more work than expected, the quotation still stands, howeverm if they think this may occur, they may add a section which outlines what variations may not be included.

Ask for quotations in writing along with start dates and completion dates. Try to not pay deposits or if you feel you must then only agree to a small deposit. If along the way the contractor starts saying there will be additional costs ask for written confirmation as to why this is the case and also if they say that parts were more expensive than expected, ask for the receipts. When you are advised by the builder that the work is complete, check all the work done and ask a friend or relative who is more in the know with regards to building work to check it over as well.
Only when you are happy that everything has been completed to a satisfactory standard pay the builder, this way they are more likely to aim for the set completion date as they will want payment and hopefully they will also take more care with the work as they want to make sure that you are happy with the work done.

Electrical and Gas Appliance Purchases

It must be the Trader not the Manufacturer that sorts out any problems which you experience. Dependant on the time you have had the appliance you may be entitled to a refund or repair. If you do have a repair, this does not affect you being able to request a refund if the appliance still breaks down at a later date. You have to be aware that you may not actually receive a full refund as the trader may place a reduction on the cost for the time that you have had full use of the appliance though this may not apply to all cases.
This also applies to the purchase of a Mobile Phone, however if the problems your experience are more to do with the Network rather than the phone then you need to check the Terms and Conditions supplied by your Network provider. Reasons such as you have changed your mind are not acceptable unless you are within the "Right to Change Your Mind" time period.

Holiday Purchases

Where package holidays are concerned raise your concerns immediately with your holiday representative. You may need to ask for and complete a Complaint Form or may have to write a letter detailing the points with which you are unhappy. Don't let a Holiday Representative tell you that parts of your holiday are not their responsibility as they are not part of their company (such as an airline) as anything that is booked in your package holiday is actually their responsibility.
If your issues are not immediately resolved, collect evidence of the problems you have experienced such as photographs and statements from other holiday makers and when you return home send copies of this evidence along with the amount of compensation you want to receive to the Travel Agent with which you booked. If you do not receive a response or are not happy with the amount of compensation offered then you can contact one of the following, dependant on which the company you booked with are members of:-

* The ABTA (Associated of British Travel Agents)
* The AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators)

If the company you booked with are not a member of either of the above then you could take your claim to the small claims court (or sheriff court if you live in Scotland).

If you choose to arrange your own holiday as a way to save money and set out arrangements to suit your needs then you will not be covered in the same way as when you book a package holiday and so if the Airline goes bump or the Hotel or Guest House which you arrange your accommodation closes then other arrangements will not be made and you will more than likely not get your money back. It is becoming increasingly more popular to arrange your own Flights, Car Hire and Accommodation by booking them all separately online and in a number of cases this is much more cost effective. But you do have to be aware of the issues that could arise before you book so that you know the pro's and con's, you may be covered by Section 75 if you book using your Credit Card.

Property Purchases

When dealing with an Estate Agent from Oct 2008, always ask which Approved Estate Agents Redress Scheme they belong as if you are unhappy with the service you receive from the Estate Agent, or feel you have been treated unfairly then you could contact the Redress Scheme for assistance if you fail to sort any problems out directly with the Estate Agents themselves.
The schemes currently approved are:-

* Ombudsman for Estate Agents Scheme
* Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme
* National Association of Estate Agents

If you live in Northern Ireland then contact Department of Enterprise.

What if a Company Goes into Administration

This is something which we are seeing much more often due to the current climate, but what consumer protection rights do you actually have if this happens?
Well, this depends on if an administrator has been appointed to the company as if they have then you could write to them to state your claim, if you have appropriate paperwork to back up your claim then copy them and send them too.
To find out if there has been an appointed administrator check the companies website or check articles in the press. If you bought the item on your Credit Card and it was over £100 (excluding postage and fees) and under £30k then you may be able to hold your Credit Card provider liable under Section 75. If however your used your Debit Card to make the purchase, contact your bank within 120 days of being made aware of the problem and explain the situation, ask if they can help you under the Charge Back Scheme as although they may not be able to help it is certainly worth asking.

Consumer Rights Advice

Watch this video by consumer champion Lyn Faulds-Wood for more advice

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Updated on 9th January, 2009

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