Consumers Lost Billions Not Using Consumer Rights

Which? Magazine Which? have carried out a survey revealing that UK consumers may have spent an unnecessary £1.2bn last year because they were covered by consumer rights and could have claimed either compensation, free repairs or replacement goods – but didn’t.

Only a part of this figure is related to white goods or repairs but clearly a significant amount of money is spent on repairs or replacing a faulty appliance, which should be covered by UK consumer law. Many of us will have heard the phrase, “I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do as it’s now out of guarantee”, but this is often completely wrong because retailers must comply with the sale of goods act – which is totally separate from the manufacturer’s guarantee.

Sales staff are often kept in the dark about the true extent of consumer rights and genuinely believe that once it’s out of guarantee there’s nothing they can do, but the reality is that if an appliance suffers a major fault even a few years out of guarantee you may be entitled to compensation or a free repair.

The major problem is that when this is the case it’s the retailer who must bear all the cost, so it’s not surprising they are very reluctant to mention it, or even to be helpful when the customer tries to enforce it.

Sadly, this whole subject is very complicated, and there is genuine confusion and disagreement about what is, and is not covered. The sale of goods act cannot be specific, it has to look at every instance according to all the circumstances including cost and usage.

Therefore a large amount of subjectivity and interpretation is needed in many cases. The truth is the whole thing is a nightmare.

A retailer may genuinely believe something is not covered when it is, but conversely many consumers often believe something is covered when it isn’t. Often the only solution is to go to a small claims court, which most consumers are scared to do or just reluctant to go to the trouble. However, taking a retailer to a small claims court is designed to be relatively straight forward.

Research and understand your consumer rights

The only thing that makes sense is to spend some time understanding the basics of your consumer rights and keeping informed. I’ve spent weeks researching and writing about this subject and have written many articles (some of which I list below). Also, don’t forget Which? who are the UK’s consumer champion, a registered charity dedicated to fighting for the consumer and highly respected. (Check out the Which? trial offer)

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