The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the Act) will change the remedies available to consumers in respect of faulty goods and services purchased from 1 October 2015. In this article we focus upon a consumer's right to a repair or replacement of faulty goods and, in particular, what happens in situations where there are "snagging" issues. More general information in respect of the remedies available to consumers is available here.

 One attempt to fix the problem

Under the Act, a consumer has the right to reject faulty goods within 30 days (the "short term" right to reject). Alternatively, a consumer may request a repair or replacement providing that it is not impossible or disproportionate in the circumstances. The right to a repair or replacement continues to be available to the consumer after the 30 day right to reject period has expired.

Traders must attempt to repair or replace faulty goods within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer. 

More importantly, consumers are obliged to accept only one attempt by the trader to repair or replace the faulty goods. Consumers are entitled to either a reduction in price or to reject the goods if the attempt to fix the fault has been unsuccessful or another fault occurs with the goods.

There is nothing, however, to stop the trader from offering a further attempt to fix the problem but the consumer is not obliged to accept the offer.

This issue is likely to cause significant problems for traders of complex goods, such as cars, which may have a number of faults which are not always immediately apparent or which manifest themselves at different times. For example, a consumer may seek to reject a car if they discover a fault with the electrics after the trader has already repaired the exhaust. 

Traders will not be entitled to make a deduction based upon the consumer's use of the goods if the goods are rejected within the first 6 months following an unsuccessful attempt to fix the fault(s). The only exception to this rule is currently in relation to motor vehicles but further categories of goods may be included in the future. It has been emphasised by BIS that a deduction based upon the consumer's use of a motor vehicle is not the same as the shortfall between the purchase price and the second hand market value of the vehicle. 

What counts as a repair?

BIS Guidance helps to clarify what will be considered to be a repair. It explains, for example, that it is unlikely that diagnostic work necessary to identify faults, such as a visit to the consumer's home to inspect the goods, would be classed as an attempt to repair.

Similarly, an attempt to repair goods at a consumer's home will only be completed once it has been confirmed to the consumer that the work is complete. It is therefore possible for a trader to make more than a single visit to the consumer's home to try and fix the problem. This is will be common in situations where an initial visit identifies that certain parts are required (e.g. parts of a washing machine) which are then ordered and fitted during a subsequent visit. 

The BIS Guidance also clarifies that if a number of faults are reported at the same time, the attempt to fix them counts as one repair.  

Commentary

A consumer's right to reject goods after one unsuccessful attempt to fix the problem provides a powerful incentive to traders to review their, and/or their supplier's, quality assurance and control procedures to ensure that any faults are identified before goods are sold. Businesses selling high value, complex and/or bespoke goods are likely to be the hardest hit by this part of the Act. Such businesses will have to give particular consideration as to what inspections and tests are undertaken when goods are being repaired to ensure that all faults (not restricted to those reported by the consumer) have been identified and resolved before the goods are returned.

For all businesses, customer service teams should be trained in advance of 1 October to ensure that they are aware of the changes to consumer rights introduced by the Act and are able to deal with claims appropriately.