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Consumer Rights Act provides businesses with service opportunity

1st Oct 2015
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The Consumer Rights Act 2015 has come into force in the UK today, with a number of new regulations for businesses to get to grips with.

The key changes to the regulations include:

·  Consumers are now entitled to a full refund for up to 30 days after any purchase.
·  Refund protection for people buying digital content, including ebooks, films and music.
·  If a product downloaded online infects a computer with a virus, the provider could be liable to pay compensation for getting the virus removed.
·  Certified “dispute resolution providers” are being set up across different sectors to help as a quicker and cheaper alternative to going through the courts.
·  Shoppers can challenge hidden fees and charges, preventing companies from enforcing terms and condition deemed unfair.

The changes have been widely praised for providing a clearer set of remedies and timeframes for consumers to claim a refund, repair or replace unsatisfactory goods, especially with digital products, which previously had little regulation in place to protect customers for when things went wrong.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said: “Consumer law was crying out to be brought up to date to cope with the requirements and demands of today’s shoppers. Getting a refund or repair, dealing with issues with faulty digital downloads and understanding contracts should now all be much simpler.”

And Naveen Aricatt, UK manager & legal expert at Trusted Shops says retailers can take the new regulations as “an opportunity” to improve their service delivery by putting customers further in charge of the relationship they have with their brands:

“[This is] the retail bombshell that fundamentally shifts the power balance in full favour of the consumer. There’s now nowhere to hide when it comes to handling refunds, repairs and issues with faulty digital downloads or queries on unfair terms.

"For retailers who thrive on the trust foundations of customer relationships, this brings great opportunity. If communicated correctly, the changes will give shoppers a new found confidence which businesses can hone in on to sustain repeat customers and attract new ones.

“In order to meet this change in mentality, businesses should begin with a focus on re-training staff and re-writing contracts to ensure customers aren’t short-changed. The training will also ensure staff are executing on new rules and that the business is open, transparent and compliant."

However, the Institute of Customer Service’s CEO, Jo Causon, says businesses cannot use the legislation as a confirmation that they’re adhering to customer expectations simply by adhering to the Consumer Act’s rules:

"This legislation is a welcome move that targets one of the biggest issues consumers are facing today. Consumers cite the quality and reliability of products or services as the main post-purchase problem they experience, with our latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) confirming that 30% of people have encountered problems of this nature over a three month period. By giving businesses clear responsibilities, this Act will clear up the grey area regarding refunds that can leave customers out of pocket.

"However, businesses must be wary of thinking that by just fulfilling these refund requirements, their work is done. Consumers will still share their negative experiences with friends and colleagues, if the level of service they receive is not up to scratch, regardless of getting their money back. Rather than relying on refunds, companies should nip the problem of quality and speed of service in the bud at an earlier stage, with a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to customer service.”

Forrester’s recent 2015 Customer Experience (CX) Index for Europe polled over 13,000 conusmers to find that “no firm in the UK” currently deliver a “superior experience”, in the eyes of their customers.

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