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Consumer bill sets out rights for customers

For the first time, Scots will have rights of redress if they are unhappy with work they paid for. Photograph: PA

For the first time, Scots will have rights of redress if they are unhappy with work they paid for. Photograph: PA

  • by JANE BRADLEY
 

THE new Consumer Rights Bill will offer extra safeguards to Scots who currently have little protection when faced with substandard services, a government minister has claimed.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott said the bill, now making its way through the UK parliament, would offer more protection to Scots consumers who, unlike their counterparts elsewhere 
in the UK, presently have little recourse when on the receiving end of poor service.

They will gain the right to ask for work to be redone, with the service provider having to pick up the bill, or to get a full or partial refund.

“Unless you’re a consumer guru it can be difficult enough to work out what your rights are, let alone understand the complex jargon that accompanies it,” said Willott.

“For Scottish consumers this change will mean your rights will be clearer when a trader provides a shoddy service. 
At the moment Scottish consumers, unlike their English and Welsh shopping neighbours, do not have any statutory rights when a service is substandard.

“The end result will be that you have the right to ask for the service to be redone, at their expense, or failing that to get some, if not all, of your money back.”

The bill, unveiled in January, aims to clarify the standards a consumer can expect when they buy something, what to do when goods, services or digital content do not meet those standards, and also clarifies when terms and conditions are unfair.

It also simplifies enforcement powers, makes it easier to tackle rogue traders and helps small businesses sue 
bigger firms which operate in breach of competition laws.

It is expected that the new legislation will provide the UK economy with a £4 billion boost over the next decade, while streamlining overlapping consumer laws from eight existing acts under one all-­encompassing piece of new legislation.

Currently, UK consumers spend more than 59 million hours a year dealing with goods and services problems at an annual cost of £3bn.

The new bill will see consumers entitled to get some money back after one failed repair and to demand that substandard services are redone or, failing that, to get a price reduction. A 30-day period to return faulty goods and get a full refund will also be set out.

In addition, consumers will be able to challenge terms and conditions viewed as unfair or contained in small print.

A spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland said: “Our service has always been there to help consumers with individual issues, but we have ­taken on more formal responsibility to empower ­consumers in Scotland. They deserve the best possible help.”

He added: “The bill sets out a number of areas where consumer rights are more specifically protected and that obviously is going to help ­empower and protect consumers in Scotland.”

Comment: Satisfied customers

WE’VE all seen it a thousand times: “This does not affect your statutory rights”. But what exactly does this mean?

Between July and October last year, Citizens Advice Scotland helped consumers with 56,806 issues – 874 each working day. Top of the list included buying used cars, mobile phone contracts and faulty goods.

Problems like this are why I am glad that the Consumer Rights Bill, which applies to all UK consumers, is now making its way through parliament.

It has a clear aim to update key consumer rights: what standards you should expect when you buy things, and what you are entitled to if those standards aren’t met. For Scottish consumers, this change will mean your rights will be clearer when a trader provides a shoddy service.

At the moment Scottish consumers, unlike their English and Welsh shopping neighbours, do not have any statutory rights when a service is substandard.

Jenny Willott, Consumer Affairs Minister

 

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