At West Yorkshire Trading Standards we have identified a worrying trend in the number of consumer complaints relating to home maintenance and improvements, especially fitted kitchens and fitted windows and doors. As Trading Standards professionals we believe that the key to resolving complaints positively is to have a sound understanding of the rights afforded to consumers.

To help businesses with this, especially those who specialise in home kitchens and replacement window and doors, we have written this blog to provide an overview of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Our overall objective is to help raise awareness and standards across West Yorkshire, and therefore reduce the number of overall complaints relating to home maintenance and improvements.

Consumer Complaints in West Yorkshire

From 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018, both Leeds and Bradford were amongst the five regions that received the most number of consumer complaints.

Highest number of consumer complaints relating by region – 2017/18*

Region No. of consumer complaints
Birmingham 9,127
Leeds 5,562
Sheffield 4,135
Bradford 4.093
Manchester 4,045

Analysis of these complaints shows that in Leeds, 11% of overall consumer complaints relate to home maintenance and improvements (591 in total) and in Bradford this figure is slightly lower at 9.5% (391). The reasons why consumers make official complaints relating to home maintenance and improvement services varies. In West Yorkshire, analysis of Citizens Advice data shows us the highest numbers of complaints relate to the following:

  • Defective goods;
  • Substandard services;
  • Breach of contract;
  • Failure / delay in providing the service;
  • Failure to provide pre-contractual information;
  • Exit / cancellation / termination charges;
  • Defective goods;
  • Unclear / hidden terms.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 – Goods

As was stated in the introduction of this blog, we believe that education of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 will help businesses serve their clients better, and therefore have a positive impact on the number of complaints received across West Yorkshire.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on 1st October 2015 and contains implied terms such as that goods supplied to consumers must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. The following summary helps put this into context:

  • Satisfactory Quality – Goods would be deemed ‘of satisfactory quality’ if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard satisfactory, taking account of any description, the price, and all other relevant circumstances. For example, new kitchen cabinets should be finished to a satisfactory paint or laminate finish, with no defects (unless defects were pointed out before entering into the contract – e.g. some timber varnish finishes might expose knots due to the nature of the product and this should be pointed out to the consumer).
  • Fit For Purpose – Goods must be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose that the consumer has made the trader aware of prior to entering the contract. For example, a new front door must open and close, lock and provide a level of security specified by the Building Regulations (Part Q).
  • As Described – Goods must match any description given, including any model or sample seen by the consumer whether in a brochure or in person unless any differences have been pointed out to the consumer. For example, when choosing a timber species for windows or doors, the factory finish received (either paint or stain) must be as described and the appearance of any knots should be stated, especially with a stain finish.

A consumer will have the right to reject goods within the first 30 days of them being supplied if they believe that they are not of satisfactory quality or not fit for purpose or as described. If outside of the 30 day period, then the consumer should allow one opportunity to repair or replace the goods. If the attempt to repair or the replacement is unsuccessful, consumers can claim a refund or price reduction (if they wish to keep the product). For example, if a homeowner purchases a kitchen unit as part of a home renovation project and the unit is a different design to the one they ordered after seeing it in a showroom, the consumer can ask for it to be replaced for the correct design.

Whilst at West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service we appreciate that it’s not always possible to ‘get it right’ first time, perhaps due to a glitch in the manufacturing process or having someone who installs the product incorrectly (everyone can make mistakes!), it is crucial that when remedying the complaint, a business does so in a manner that complies with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and is emphatic to the customer.

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The Consumer Rights Act – Service Contracts

Prior to providing goods and/or a service, businesses must provide a certain level of pre-contract information to the consumer, including the following:

  • Price;
  • Arrangements of delivery and installation;
  • Payment arrangements, including deposits and invoice terms;
  • Contact details;
  • Any guarantee details.

*please note, the above is provided for illustration purposes and is not an exhaustive list.

In addition to pre-contract information, when providing a service, a business is entering into a service contract. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, a trader must perform the service with reasonable care and skill and within a reasonable time (if a timescale has not been agreed). Where details are not agreed pre-contract, such as unforeseen electrical work when installing a new kitchen which increases overall cost and installation time, the service contract means that the additional service must be provided at a reasonable price and within a reasonable timescale.

Where a service is provided with the goods, such as a trader supplying and fitting windows in a customer’s house, if there is a problem with the service (for example a gap around the window) the consumer can expect for that problem to be rectified by the trader within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience. In circumstances where rectification is impossible, or can’t be done within a reasonable time or without causing significant inconvenience, then the consumer can claim a price reduction and depending on how severe the failings are, this could be up to 100% of the cost.

Want to know more?

Whilst this blog provides a brief summary of the Consumer Rights Act, to help businesses raise standards and protect their brand reputation, we offer Consumer Rights Act training. The next workshop is scheduled for 27th June. To view an outline of the workshop, click here. Alternatively, call Michelle Bucknell on 0113 535 0214 or email michelle.bucknell@wyjs.org.uk

 

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