The Consumer Rights Act - What Does It Mean For Schools?

Article

13 October, 2015

Whilst it may not appear obvious, as all schools deal directly with consumers, it is important to be aware of the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA). This is particularly going to be the case where schools are selling goods to consumers, e.g. through a school shop or online.

The CRA is a new piece of legislation designed to be clearer and easier to understand whilst helping consumers and businesses avoid disputes. As from 1st October the CRA has consolidated and updated some of the existing consumer legislation relevant to schools involved in the sale of goods, supply of services and unfair terms in consumer contracts.

Whilst most of the changes implemented by the CRA are updates to existing laws, there are two new areas of law:

  • it will be the first time that rights on digital content will be set out in legislation; and
  • for the first time there are clear rules on what should happen if a service is not provided with reasonable care and skill as agreed.

The key points that your school should be aware of are:

1. The Sale of Goods (Including Digital Content)

With clear 'rights to reject', the CRA now makes it clear what should happen and what consumers may do when goods are faulty. Acknowledging the changing nature of commerce in the digital sphere there is also separate provision stating what should happen and what consumers may do when digital content (e.g. online e-books) is faulty. Where consumers wish to exercise their rights, there are clear remedies available and defined timescales as to when these must be exercised. With regard to the sale of goods, the CRA also updates the position on delivery (i.e. when this must be made by the school) and risk (i.e. when this shall pass from the school to the consumer).

2. The Supply of Services

Whilst the existing duties of a business under the current legislation are retained, the CRA covers how services should match up to what has been agreed, and what should happen either when they don't match or when they have not been provided with the use of reasonable care and skill by a business.

3. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts

Existing legislation has been repealed by the CRA and this is now the only piece of legislation applicable to business to consumer contracts with regards to unfair terms. The CRA extends the definition of the consumer and sets out a list of clauses which are presumed to be unfair.

Does your school take action?

To ensure compliance with the CRA, schools would be well advised to review (or implement if non-existent):

  • sales contracts, terms and conditions, standard website and app terms;
  • pre-contractual information; and
  • cancellations and returns policies.

Under the new legislation there is greater flexibility for public enforcers such as Trading Standards to respond to calls of breaches of consumer legislation and so it is more important than ever to ensure that your school is compliant.

If you have any specific queries on the effects of the CRA, would like to implement new trading terms or update your existing terms so as to accord with the provisions, please contact John Pickervance or 01254 222399.

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