Essay: The main legal rights of customers

On 1st October 2015, the Consumer Rights Act was introduced into the United Kingdom. It replaced the previous consumer legislations of:
• Sale of Goods Act
• Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations
• Supply of Goods and Services Act

The Act covers the consumer’s rights in relation to:

• Product Quality – The product being purchased must be of:
o Satisfactory quality – Purchased items should not be faulty or damaged upon taking receipt or being delivered. “Of satisfactory quality” relates to how satisfactory the product is in relation to its price. Cheap products will not he expected to have such high standards of quality as that of more expensive or luxurious equivalents.
o Fit for purpose – The goods should be able to be used for their intended purpose, as well as for any other intended purpose the consumer made aware to the retailer prior to purchase.
o As described – The goods supplied should match any description or images made known to the consumer at the time of purchase.

• Returning Goods – The Act dictates that the consumer has the right to reject goods that are deemed, as not being of a satisfactory quality, not fit for purpose or not matching the products description. The consumer is entitled to get a full refund as long as the rejection is within 30 days of its date of purchase. The full refund is only available for the first 30 days following purchase, unless the retailer has specified an extended refund period. The 30 day period does not apply to purchases that are made as “downloads” from the internet, for example, music and games, or perishable goods where the use-by date acts as the life expectancy of the product.

• Replacement or Repair – If the 30 day rejection period has expired, the consumer must give the retailer the opportunity to replace or repair the purchased item, which is deemed as unsatisfactory, not fit for purpose or not as described upon purchase. If the retailer makes an unsuccessful attempt to repair or replace the item, then the consumer can opt to claim a refund or if the consumer chooses to keep the product to receive a price reduction. A consumer is entitled to a full or partial refund from the retailer for any of the following reasons:
o A repair or replacement is not possible
o The cost of undertaking a repair or replacement is disproportionate to the items value
o Significant inconvenience would be attributed to the consumer, in order to undertake the repair or replacement of the product
o A long time period is required to undertake the items repair, which is not deemed reasonable by the consumer
In addition, if a fault is discovered with a product within 6 months of its purchase date, then the fault is deemed to have been in existence since its purchase – unless this can be proven to be not the case by the retailer. The emphasis at this time is on the retailer to prove that the fault didn’t exist upon delivery and not on the consumer to prove that it did exist. During this 6 months period, the consumer has the right to reject the purchase and is entitled to either a full refund or a price reduction should they wish to keep the purchase. After 6 months, the onus is on the consumer to prove that the fault did exist at the time of delivery.

• Digital contents rights – As for other goods, purchased goods that contain a digital content, i.e., the item contains “data which are produced and supplied in digital form”, must also be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If the digital content fails for any of these reasons then the consumer is entitled to a repair or replacement of the digital content contained within the product. If repair or replacement is not possible then the consumer can request a price reduction up to 100% of the cost of the digital content, i.e., a full refund of the digital content cost.

• Delivery rights – The liability for the delivery of goods is upon the retailer, until the goods are in the possession of the consumer or someone who has been appointed as taking delivery on behalf of the consumer. The delivery firm is not in any way liable for the delivery of goods and thus, the retailer is responsible and liable for the service provided by the delivery service provider. A default delivery period of 30 days is in existence, within which the retailer needs to deliver the goods unless a longer period has been agreed with the consumer. A late delivery can result in:
o The consumer cancelling the purchase as it was required for a specified date. In such cases the consumer is entitled to a full refund on the product.
o If the time period for the delivery is not essential, but a delivery date cannot be agreed with the retailer then the consumer has the right to cancel the order and receive a full refund.

• Supplying a service – A consumer enters into a contract with a service provider in any number of ways. For example,
o Car repair
o Installation of products (fitted kitchens, bathrooms, central heating, UPVc windows etc)
o Building work
o Decorating
o Work undertaken by professional (accountants, solicitors, estate agents etc)
o Travel by train, ferry or coach

Should anything go wrong with any of the services being provided by a service provider then the consumer is covered. The Act quotes the following:
o “The trader must perform the service with reasonable care and skill.”
o “Information which is said or written is binding where the consumer relies on it.”
o “Where the price is not agreed beforehand, the service must be provided for a reasonable price.”
o “Unless a particular timescale for performing the service is set out or agreed, the service must be carried out in a reasonable time.”

If the service being provided contravenes these requirements then the consumer is entitled to:
o Request the trader to redo:
o the service that is deemed as not being adequate
o the whole service
This must be undertaken within a reasonable time period and at no significant inconvenience to the consumer.
o Request a price reduction where the service is unable to be repeated “within the time scale or without causing significant inconvenience” to the consumer. The price reduction can be up to 100% of the service cost and the trader should make the refund to the consumer within 14 days of the agreement being made.

References
http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act

Section :
AC1.2
Title : Described an organisation’s commitments to customers

An organisations commitment to its customers is usually provided through its “Customer Service Commitment” which:
• Outlines the levels of service that the customer can expect from the organisation
• Identifies how the organisation will meet and exceed customer needs and expectations

The levels of service of an organisation commitment to its customers may be further outlined and identified through:
• Consumer Contract – A consumer contract is a legally binding document between an organisation who supplies goods and services with its customers or clients. A consumer contract can be made in three ways:
o Verbally
o In writing
o “Silent contracts”, for example, when a customer purchases goods via a self service checkout at a supermarket
The contract only becomes legally binding when five elements come together:
o Offer – this occurs when a consumer offers to buy goods. For example:
 Placing items into a shopping trolley at a supermarket.
 Adding goods via a website to their “basket”.
 Placing an order via telephone from a brochure or catalogue.
o Acceptance – this occurs when the customer accepts the offer. In the above examples when:
 The consumer pays for the items in the supermarket trolley.
 Payment is received from the customer for goods and services purchased online either at checkout or after receiving an email has been received by the customer identifying the items being purchased.
 Payment is taken for the goods and services purchased from a brochure or catalogue.
o Consideration – This is the payment or promise of making a payment for the goods or services to be received.
o Intention – This occurs when the supplier of the goods and services and the customer, both understand the meaning of what the contract between them, actually means and they both intend to enter a legally binding agreement based on that contract.
o Legal Capacity – In order for the contract to be binding the consumer must be legally capable of making the contract. Examples of when a consumer may not have the legal capacity in order to enter into a legally binding contract are:
 Too young
 Mental health issues, e.g., dementia
 Under the influence of alcohol or drugs (cocaine, heroin etc.)

• Warranties & Guarantees – These are typically associated with the purchase of expensive products by a consumer, for example, computers, washing machines, fridge freezers, cars etc. This guarantee or warranty will protect the consumer should the item stop working.
o A guarantee is usually given to a consumer as a free service which promises that the organisation will undertake one of the following solutions/remedies should the product stop working:
 Repair the product
 Replace the product
 Provide a refund on the product
This guarantee is time capped, i.e., is only available for a specific amount of time following purchase of the item
o A warranty is a document which offers additional protection when a consumer buys a product. For example, when a consumer buys a car, the manufacturer may offer some of the following warranty agreements:
 Base Warranty – This usually covers the replacement or repair of vehicle parts that were defective due to manufacturer errors.
 Parts Warranty – This usually states that only the manufacturers’ original replacement parts will be used to repair the vehicle.
 Paint Warranty – This usually covers the paintwork against corrosion and defective work on the vehicle.
 Corrosion Protection Warranty – The bodywork on the vehicle is covered against perforation by rust, from the inside or underside. This again, is usually time specific.
The above examples are taken from 3-year/60,000 miles Ford Warranty. In addition to a warranty some manufacturers may offer “extended warranties” to their customers. These are sometimes called service agreements, service contracts or maintenance contracts and offer a prolonged warranty to customers when purchasing “expensive products”, but they will incur extra cost to the customer.

• Service Standards – This is the level of service provided to its customers by an organisations employees’ and also how this service was provided when interacting with the customer. An organisation has two types of customers:
o External – Customers who purchase goods or services from an organisation.
o Internal – An employee or department within the organisation who is dependent upon another employee or department within the same organisation.

Examples of customer service standards are as follows:

o External
 We will interact with our customers in a fair, equal, courteous and professional manner
 We will listen to the needs and expectations of the customer in order to improve the services which we provide
 We will inform customers of service delivery and subsequently any delays
 We will respond to website requests within 24 hours
 We will respond to any mailing requests with 3 working days

o Internal
 We will communicate with our colleagues in a fair, equal, courteous and professional manner
 We will inform our internal customers of service delivery and subsequently any delays
 We will liaise with our internal customers on a daily basis, by either phone or email
 We will remedy any issues with our internal customers by meeting with them and agreeing upon a resolution

• Service Level Agreements (SLA) – An SLA is a commitment that exists between an organisation and a customer who makes use of that organisations services. The SLA identifies a level of service with regards to quality, availability and responsibilities that has been agreed between the two parties.
Examples of SLAs within Primary Care Services (PCS) are as follows:-
• Electronic Transmission of Claims/Payments System (ETC/ETP) . The system uses a web service for the pharmacy contractors to send in their prescription claims to PCS for payment. The SLA (yet to be agreed) will identify the availability of the Web Service to receive claims from pharmacy contractors.
• Prescribing Services SLA 2012-15 (See Appendix 1). This is a SLA agreement on the services provided to Welsh Government from the Primary Cares Services division of NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership (NWSSP)

Another primary commitment for any organisation is to foster the right relationships with its customers in relation to what they want or require.

The ability to identify a need or requisite requires critical thinking, analysis and insight. The leaders of an organisation may not correctly or entirely identify their business needs or expectations of a project. Therefore, it is important to delve into the organisations business objectives and targets when developing a resolution to the leaders’ needs and requirements. In order to develop a successful resolution a business analyst should:

• Identify the objective of the need
• Identify the desired outcomes or expectations
• Identify any issues or problems with the development
• Identify potential solutions in order to meet the business needs/requirements
• Clarification of needs / expectations

Two important factors in meeting the needs and requirements of customers are:
• Listening – In order to identify the true requirements and expectations of what the customers require/expect
• Questioning – In order to determine whether what you perceive as being what they require/expect is correct. This can also identify whether SMART targets are actually required and whether or not they can be achieved within the project.

If the expectations of customers are not met with the delivery of the project then this will result in customer dissatisfaction.

It is also important to realise that customers may have other basic expectations, not related to the delivery of the service or product:

• Friendliness – It is important to develop a friendly environment when meeting with customers
• Empathy – When issues arise with the service or product it is important to show empathy or understanding towards the customers issues
• Fairly –All customers needs and requirements are treated with the same fairness, i.e., no need is excluded, unless it can be justified or identified as being not possible or unfeasible
• Control – Make the customer feel as if they have control over the development, i.e., leading its delivery, by ensuring that they are not being manipulated by policy or procedure
• Alternatives – Allow customers to have a choice over potential solutions to their needs / requirements
• Respect – Treat the customers with respect, even though they may not be fully conversant with the issues in delivering the solution
• To be heard – Ensure that customers have an input into the delivery of the solution and that it is not just a resolution that you have perceived as meeting their needs and expectations
• Trust – If you promise to do something for the customer then ensure that it is done, otherwise trust levels will be diminished
• Satisfaction – Ensure that customer expectations are realised with regards to what has been documented as being their needs / requirements.

References
https://www.businesscompanion.info/en/quick-guides/consumer-contracts#Whatisaconsumercontract

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/money-matters/consumer-advice/guarantees-and-warranties-what-you-need-to-know/

http://www.ford.co.uk/BuyingandprotectingyourFord/Warranties/New-Car

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_warranty

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