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Normally a consumer has no automatic right to change his mind and to cancel a contract; therefore if this happens he is in breach of contract. However, there is an automatic right to cancel in some special cases, including most consumer contracts made at a distance (for example, mail order or internet) or at a consumer's home etc. See Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 below. If a consumer cancels the contract wrongfully, the trader can claim the reasonable costs incurred. Where the trader cannot recover the lost sale (for example, by selling the item to someone else) they may be entitled to claim loss of profit too. If the consumer has made full- or part-payment up front, the trader can only retain enough to cover these losses and must refund the difference.

What the consumer can expect (statutory rights)

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, certain standards apply to every transaction for the sale and supply of goods (including hire purchase, hire, part exchange and contracts for work and materials). The person transferring or selling the goods must have the right to do so and the goods must: be of a satisfactory quality. Goods must be of a standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory. Quality is a general term, which covers a number of matters including:

- fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied

- appearance and finish

- freedom from minor defects

- safety

- durability

In assessing quality, all relevant circumstances must be considered, including price, description, and your or the manufacturer's advertising be fit for a particular purpose. When a  onsumer indicates that goods are required for a particular purpose, or where it is obvious that goods are intended for a particular purpose and a trader supplies them to meet that requirement, the goods should be fit for that specified purpose match the description, sample or model. When a consumer relies on a description, sample or display model the goods supplied must conform to it. If the goods do not conform, an offence may have been committed be installed correctly, where installation has been agreed as part of the contract Any digital content supplied with the goods must also be of satisfactory quality, fit for a particular purpose and as described - for more information see 'Digital content'.

THE SHORT-TERM RIGHT TO REJECT

If, when they are supplied, the goods do not meet the requirements above, there is a short period during which the consumer is entitled to reject them. This short-term right to reject goods lasts for 30 days unless the expected life of the goods is shorter, as with highly perishable goods. The right does not apply in cases where the only breach relates to an incorrect installation of goods.

If the consumer asks for repair or replacement during this initial 30-day period, the period is paused so that the consumer has the remainder of the 30-day period, or seven days (whichever is longer) to check whether the repair or replacement has been successful and to decide whether to reject the goods.

When a consumer rejects goods he can claim a refund. This would be a full refund or, in the case of hire, a refund for any part of the hire that was paid for but not supplied. He is also released from all his outstanding obligations under the contract - for example, the outstanding instalments in a contract of hire purchase. A refund must be given without undue delay, and in any event within 14 days of the trader agreeing that the consumer is entitled to a refund.

The trader is responsible for the reasonable cost of returning the goods except where the consumer is returning them to the place where he took possession of them - for example, the retail shop where he bought them.

However, the consumer is not required to return the goods to this place unless this was agreed from the outset as part of the contract. Even if the consumer returns goods to the shop, he may in some circumstances be able to claim some or all of that cost from the trader - for example, where a motor vehicle breaks down and the consumer has to pay for a recovery service to return it.

REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT

When there is a breach of contract, but the consumer has lost or chooses not to exercise his right to reject goods, he will be entitled in the first instance to claim a repair or replacement.

Where a repair or replacement is claimed, the trader must do this at no cost to the consumer, within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience.

The consumer cannot choose one of these remedies above the other if the chosen remedy is either impossible or disproportionate as compared to the other remedy. Also, once the consumer has chosen a remedy, he must give the trader a reasonable time to provide that remedy.

The remedies fail if, after just one attempt at repair or replacement, the goods still do not meet the necessary requirements. The consumer does not have to give the trader multiple opportunities to repair or replace, although he can do so if he wishes. The remedies also fail if they are not provided within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer.

In either case where repair or replacement fail, the consumer is entitled to further repairs or replacements or he can claim a price reduction or the right to reject. The same rule applies if both repair and replacement are impossible or disproportionate from the outset.

PRICE REDUCTION & THE FINAL RIGHT TO REJECT

If repair or replacement is not available or is unsuccessful, or is not provided within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, then the consumer can claim a price reduction or reject the goods.

Where repair or replacement fail, are not available, or were not provided within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer, the consumer chooses whether to keep the goods or return them. If he keeps the goods, then his claim will be for a reduction in price; if he returns them, he is rejecting them.

A price reduction must be an appropriate amount, which will depend on all the circumstances of the claim. It can be any amount up to the whole price.

If the consumer rejects the goods, then he is entitled to a refund. This refund may be reduced to take account of any use the consumer has had from the goods. However, no deduction can be made for the consumer having the goods simply because the trader has delayed in collecting them. Nor can a deduction be made where goods are rejected within six months of supply, except where the goods are a motor vehicle.

ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION

Whatever remedy the consumer chooses or ends up with, he may also be able to claim compensation for losses that have been incurred. These losses might include the cost of any property damage caused by the goods, compensation for personal injury and compensation for the additional cost of buying equivalent goods if they are more expensive elsewhere.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF

If the consumer chooses repair, replacement, price reduction or the final right to reject, and if the defect is discovered within six months of delivery, it is assumed that the fault was there at the time of delivery unless the trader can prove otherwise or unless this assumption is inconsistent with the circumstances (for example, obvious signs of misuse).

If more than six months have passed, the consumer has to prove the defect was there at the time of delivery. He must also prove the defect was there at the time of delivery if he exercises the short-term right to reject goods.

Some defects do not become apparent until some time after delivery, and in these cases it is enough to prove that there was an underlying or hidden defect at that time.

Exceptions - when the consumer cannot make a claim

A consumer cannot claim for defects that are brought to his attention before the sale, or if the consumer examines the goods before purchase and any defects should have been obvious.

A consumer cannot claim for damage he causes or if he simply changes his mind about wanting the goods.

Neither can a consumer claim if he chose the product himself for a purpose that is neither obvious nor made known to the trader and he then finds that the item is simply unsuitable for that purpose. For example, if a consumer buys a hedge trimmer and breaks it attempting to cut down a tree with it, he cannot make a claim unless the trader told him it would be suitable for tree-felling.

A consumer has no rights to claim for faults that appear as a result of fair wear and tear.

Time limits for court action

Consumers can expect goods not to fail prematurely, even if the reasonable life expectancy of those goods is several years. However, there is a time limit that eventually prevents consumers from making a claim through the courts.

A consumer cannot normally bring a claim to court more than six years after the breach of contract (usually the date of delivery in a contract for the sale of goods).

This does not mean all goods have to last this length of time, but this is the time limit that the law gives a consumer to take legal action.

LOSS OR DAMAGE IN TRANSIT

If the trader arranges for goods to be delivered to a consumer, the goods remain at the trader's risk until delivery. Therefore it is the trader's responsibility to ensure that goods are not lost or damaged in transit and/or to take out appropriate insurance.

Contracts made before 1 October 2015

For contracts made before 1 October 2015, different legislation and different rules may apply. In most cases, there will be little difference in the practical steps required by both consumer and trader in resolving a complaint, but in some cases the differences may be significant. For example, there may be some cases where a consumer has the right to reject goods under an older contract even where they would not have the same right under a newer contract.

For more information please see 'The sale & supply of goods - before 1 October 2015' and 'The supply of services / goods with services - before 1 October 2015'