(Written by our Civil Litigation Solicitor, Paul Fleming – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
This statute has been in force for over five years but I get the impression that a lot of traders and their customers haven’t got to grips with it and they still act as if the old statutes such as the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 embody the main legal principles of the consumer contract. Well, yes, those statutes remain if the contractor is dealing with another business but NOT if they are dealing with a “consumer”. And a consumer is a “customer” who isn’t acting as a business when they buy the stuff or engage the services. And even then, some small businesses can be classed as a “consumer” if they aren’t a company and the goods or services in question are not what they normally deal in. So if an unincorporated plumber buys a laptop from a shop for his business, they can call themselves the consumer in the transaction and claim consumer rights.
The CRA 2015 beefed up the range of consumer rights, adding some novel ideas. It not only re-booted and reinforced the existing rights found previously in the Sale of Goods Act 1979, Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 but it put an end to some annoying “rights” claimed by traders, a great example of which is the “time is not of the essence” variety. Nowadays, if a contractor agrees to come and do the work on a specific day or within a specific time, and doesn’t turn up on the day or within the time promised, they can no longer defend their conduct with the glib words, “Agh, but time was not of the essence, was it?” These days, the time factor is pretty much “of the essence” automatically, and very much a term of the contract. As I say, I am sometimes surprised that traders haven’t cottoned on to that and still make the same careless promises. Perhaps they get away with it still because most customers haven’t cottoned on to it either.
Other great new ideas in the 2015 statute include a range of new remedies, including forcing the trader to re-perform the services at their own costs (but to do it better this time) and neat and handy presumptions such as the one that says that if goods develop a fault within 6 months, they must have been faulty when they were sold (unless the seller proves otherwise). It also introduces the notion of the “the average consumer” on the question of what the consumer should rightly expect of the service. And one great innovation is that defective installation of goods makes the goods themselves faulty and unsatisfactory.
A set of neat ideas that deserve more use and more credit, really. It would pay you to search it up online and read the government guidance notes. There was supposed to be a new section of the County Court set up by now, specifically to hear consumer claims based on the 2015 statute and associated regulations, but that didn’t quite happen. Ironically, the Ministry of Justice failed to provide the service it promised us consumers!
To contact Paul Fleming, please email him or contact our main tel no at Owen Kenny: 01243 790532.