Living in the UK
If you have ever bought anything from a shop or a website then you are a consumer. Computers, clothes, cars, CDs etc are known as 'goods', whereas bank/ insurance products, meals in restaurants, contracts or transport (bus/train journeys) are all types of 'services'.
Whether you are a consumer of goods, or services, or both, the law protects you from traders who treat you unfairly, or sell you faulty items. You have legal (statutory) rights even when you buy things online, via your phone or on Ebay/auction sites.
The law does not give you any rights to exchange or get a refund for items that you have just changed your mind about, does not fit, or you have bought the wrong colour. Many shops will help in these situations as a gesture of good will, but they have no legal obligation to do so.
If you have a problem with goods or services you have bought, make sure you know what your rights are and understand the obligations of the seller before you start negotiating with them. Time is often an important factor in consumer contracts, so make sure you find out what your rights are and act on this in a reasonable time.
Our advisers are able to help you understand your rights in your own particular situation. Contact us to make an appointment, or email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Problems with Goods
Goods should be; ‘…of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.’ Sale of Goods Act 1979.
Even if you bought the item in a sale, it must still fulfil the above. However, if you are trying to change something just because you don't like it any more, or the colour is wrong, the shop does not have to give you a refund or replace it.
If you do have a legitimate reason to take the item back, you don’t have to have a receipt (although it does help), as long as you can prove you bought it there, a bank or credit card statement is enough.
If you bought online you actually have more rights because these sales come under the Distance Selling regulations. However, you probably will have to pay to send the item back.
Our Advisers will be able to advise you further on your specific situation, so please call us to arrange an appointment.
Problems with Services
A service is anything from a meal in a restaurant, insurance or bank products, or even your University Halls accommodation.
The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, says that services provided should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time, and at a reasonable cost.
The emphasis is on the word reasonable and this is always open to debate.
Common problems for students are utility companies (e.g. gas, water, electricity, broadband etc), mobile phone contracts, and banks/insurance products.
Because the test of ‘reasonableness’ is open to interpretation, it may be best for you to come and talk about your problem with a service to one of our advisers. You can email us email@example.com, or contact us to make an appointment.
However, if you don’t want to read more about your rights and how to negotiate with a service provider the Money Saving Expert website has a lot of useful information as does the Citizens Advice website.
These days, scams or frauds are a sad fact of life and the scammers are always finding new and inventive ways of taking your money from you.
Firstly, most people will be caught by a clever scammer so you have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about if you get caught out. Unfortunately, students are often the target for scams.
Some of the classic scams we have seen are:
- The house that does not exist Students are lured by lovely photos of a house or flat. When they contact the landlord, he/she asks for money to be sent (usually via Western Union Credit) to ‘prove’ they are really interested/have the money. They may suggest you send it to a friend, but the money will be intercepted and you won't see it again. Any landlord that asks for money before you have even seen the property should set your alarm bells ringing.
- Insurance through a person from your home country This can seem reassuring and helpful, but they are often using a stolen credit card to pay for the insurance. You may get the paper work, but then the policy is cancelled and you are left uninsured. Always arrange your insurance through a proper broker; if they only have a mobile phone number you should be concerned!
- Emails from a friend in need This scam involves an email from someone you know telling you they have been robbed and are in a foreign country without money to get a new passport. Never send money to such a request. Always check to see if the story is true first.
- Mystery Shopper jobs This ‘job’ offer involves you paying a cheque into a bank/or other organisation keeping a portion of the money for yourself (your wages) and returning the remainder with your ‘report’ on the business they asked you to use. The cheque will bounce and you will be left short of money, with no way of recovering it.
There are many more scams out there, if something feels wrong, talk to one of our advisers first. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to us or to Action Fraud.
Unfair Trading Practices and Rogue Traders
Most of the laws that deal with unfair commercial practices are covered by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008). These rules set out clearly what unfair commercial practices are. They are there to make sure that traders act in an open and honest way and give you all the information you need to make free and well-informed buying choices.
They also protect you against aggressive selling techniques and traders who mislead you about their products or services. This may include companies who pressurise you into signing a contract, or entice you with incentives, that turn out to be not as good as they lead you to believe.
If a trader does something you think is dishonest or unfair but doesn't seem to be covered by the specific banned practices then there is a catch-all category in the regulations called general prohibition which places a general duty on traders not to trade unfairly.
We have strong links with the local Charnwood Citizens Advice Bureau, who run a special project known as the Consumer Information Gathering Service.
This scheme uses information (given by clients of local CAB's and ourselves) about traders who use unfair and dangerous trading practices. The information helps Leicestershire Trading Standards identify businesses which are acting outside the law so that the problem can be stopped at source.
We pass information received from students (with their permission) to help ensure that Leicestershire and Loughborough residents are not unfairly treated by rogue traders. Talk to an adviser if you have experienced problems with trader using unfair or dangerous practices.