UK: The Christmas Gift: Is There A Claus Of Action?

Last Updated: 23 December 2015
Article by Alexander Kingston-Splatt

We reported recently about the major change in consumer legislation brought about by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (the "CRA").

Here we examine what rights are now available to a consumer who purchased Christmas gifts on or after 1st October 2015, when most parts of the CRA came into effect. For those who planned ahead and purchased their gifts early this year, the old law still applies.

Broken Gifts

If Tim opens his first present to find it in pieces, under the CRA there is a so called "short-term right to reject" available to whoever purchased it for him.

The right to reject is available if the seller is in breach of a number of requirements imposed by the CRA relating to the nature of the goods. Most notably the goods must:

  1. be of satisfactory quality;
  2. be fit for their purpose;
  3. be as described by the seller; and
  4. match any sample which is inspected by the consumer, or any model seen or examined by the buyer.

The short-term rejection right is limited to 30 days. The seller can extend that period, but cannot shorten it. So Tim's toy needs to be returned for a refund quickly and, in any event, within 30 days of purchase.

Where goods can reasonably be expected to perish within a shorter period than 30 days, the short-term right to reject is circumscribed to such shorter period.

In either case, the short-term right to reject is lost altogether once the applicable period lapses. This does not, however, affect other remedies available to a consumer, including the right to a repair or replacement.

A consumer's rights in respect of defective goods are "tiered". Once the short-term right to reject is lost, the consumer may either exercise the right to insist on a repair or demand replacement of the goods.

If the repair is unsuccessful, or the replacement is defective, or if either is impossible for any reason, a consumer may either ask for a price reduction, or exercise the "final" right to reject the goods.

Digital Content

Where the gift being purchased takes the form of "digital content", the CRA has a separate regime which dictates what a purchaser is able to do if the content transpires to be defective.

The definition of "digital content" in the CRA is very wide, including all "data which are produced and supplied in digital form", such as video games, for example. Where goods are supplied with an element of digital content which is defective, the CRA rules in relation to digital content apply.

Broadly, digital content must comply with the same standards as goods (satisfactory quality, fitness for purpose, and so on). However, there are important differences in relation a consumer's rights when provided with faulty digital content.

Most significantly, there is no right to reject defective digital content, because there is no way to "return" it to the seller. Instead, the consumer may take up the right to insist on a repair or replacement. As with goods, if that is impossible or does not resolve the issue, the buyer will have the right to a price reduction, up to and including the full amount paid for the content in the first place.

In addition, in the event that the digital content in some way harms the consumer's hardware (or other digital content), there is a specific right to compensation under the CRA for the resulting damage.

Gift Receipts

Where a present is being purchased for someone else, it is very important to obtain a "gift receipt" from the seller. The gift receipt essentially acts as proof that the holder of it is now the owner of the item, title having passed from the person who purchased it.

This will enable the recipient of a defective gift to take up the gauntlet with the seller and exercise the rights described above.

Unwanted Gifts

Most people do not realise that there is no requirement for a seller to accept goods which are returned simply because they are unwanted.

In practice, however, many major retailers do operate a returns policy, but it will be important to check the terms of it carefully. Such policies very often only permit returns during a short period, and prescribe the types of goods which may be returned.

Either way, it is important to have obtained a gift receipt.

Santa's Negligence

If Santa breaks the presents on his way down the chimney, there is no claim against the seller under the CRA. In such event, the claus of action lies against Santa himself.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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