Consumer law is a legal area that focuses on giving protection to the consumer when they buy a product or service. This part of the legal system is designed to make sure that consumers buying a product or service are protected against issues such as fraud and mis-selling, for example. Via bodies such as the Office of Fair Trading this legal area also makes sure that consumer markets work in a fair and equitable manner.
So, for example, as a consumer, your rights when you make a purchase will be protected in various ways by consumer law. This could apply to the general purchase of products and services down to specialist areas. So, for example, a website selling a range of products must act in a specific way to make sure that your purchase is fair and that your rights are protected. Or, if you buy a financial product such as a loan or a credit agreement then according to the law you must be given a cooling-off period’ where you can change your mind if you wish.
There are various elements of consumer law that protect your rights and that can be used to help you solve a case against a retailer or sales company. These include:
- The Sales of Goods Act -- this act gives you a range of statutory rights when you buy something. So, for example, under this act any products that you might buy must be fit for purpose, of the right quality and as they were described to you before you made a purchase.
- The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations -- these consumer law regulations protect your rights if you buy something via the Internet or over the phone. They will, for example, set clear guidelines on what retailers must tell you about products, services, costs and delivery and they give you a seven day cancellation period.
- The Consumer Credit Act -- this act looks after your rights if you take out some form of credit agreement. It specifies that your contracts here must show you specific information including your credit agreement amount, payment information, credit charges and APRs and your rights to cancel.
Consumer law as a whole is managed in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading. If, however, you need to make a complaint or have a problem then your case may well be handled at a local level. Here, for example, you might take up your case with your local trading standards office who can give you practical help and advice. This maybe your best first step if you think you have a problem.