Business Law & Compliance

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Government enforces new digital content laws to protect consumer rights

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In effect from 1 October, the legislation is designed to make it simpler for British businesses and customers to resolve disputes and know where they stand when it comes to the legalities of digital content.

The decision comes as the nation’s shoppers are increasingly connected to the internet across multiple devices. Indeed, they spent over £2.8bn on music downloads, videos and games in 2014 – an 18 per cent year-on-year increase.

For the first time, the Consumer Rights Act will allow consumers to reject a faulty item within 30 days and get a full refund in a similar way they would be able to with a physical item in a store. Until now, it was unclear how long the digital refund window for should remain open for.

“Whether it’s downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the Consumer Rights Act makes it easier to understand your rights,” said business minister Nick Boles.

“UK consumers spend £90bn a month and it is important they are able to shop with confidence. These changes will also simplify the law for businesses so they can spend less time worrying about unclear and unwieldy regulations.”

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Data shows that shoppers had more than 18m problems with consumer goods in 2013, thus people were left over £4.15bn out of pocket.

According to the Act: “After 30 days, retailers have one opportunity to repair or replace any goods and the consumer can choose whether they want the goods to be repaired or replaced. If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, the consumer can then claim a refund or a price reduction if they wish to keep the product.”

Consumers will also have the right to challenge terms and conditions that are hidden in small print.

Elsewhere, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers, described as a cheaper system than going through the courts, will be recommended to provide support when businesses and consumers are unable to resolve issues between themselves.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Clear consumer rights are good for shoppers and businesses. The new laws coming in today should make it easier for people to understand and use their rights regardless of what goods or services they buy.

“Businesses have a real opportunity to show they value their customers by upholding their new rights and signing up to an alternative dispute resolution scheme. This means people have an independent body they can raise a complaint with if they haven’t managed to resolve their issue with the trader.”

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