What are my statutory rights, and when do they apply? - Which? (2023)

Statutory rights - what does this mean?

The phrase ‘This does not affect your statutory rights’ often appears in the T&Cs or at the end of store policies on retailer websites.

You’ll also see it on the receipts or shop notices of retailers. But what does it mean?

When you buy anything from a retailer, you’re entering into a contract with them and you’re protected by implied rights set by the law.

These rights are often referred to as your statutory rights.

By including this phrase, retailers are doing the minimum required to make you aware that you have legal rights in addition to the store policy.

Understand your basic statutory rights

The most important statutory rights for consumers to understand come from two pieces of legislation - the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

If you can learn the basic principles of these consumer laws and quote them to a retailer when making a complaint, you’ll stand the better chance of getting your money back.

While most retailers will know their store policies well, they aren’t always that clued up on the law. As a result, they can inadvertently misinform you.

Key Information

When do statutory rights apply?

Your statutory rights are your minimum guaranteed rights under the law, so they always apply and overrule the retailer’s store policy.

But, there are some scenarios where you have less legal protections.

Your rights also run parallel to any terms in your warranty or guarantee.

While warranties can often be more generous, they do sometimes have exclusions and commonly last for one year - in which case, you might want to exercise your rights which last longer.

How well do you know your online shopping rights?

Unwanted goods: Buying in store vs buying online

If you buy something in store in person you have less rights to rely on than if you purchased it online.

Buying in store

  • If you purchased in store and walked away with your goods, then you don’t have an automatic legal right to return it if you simply change your mind.
  • You will have to look at the retailer’s store policy for returning unwanted items to see if you can return your goods and how long you have to do this.
  • But if a retailer has a returns policy it must stick to it, as it’s part of the legal contract you signed up to when you purchased the goods.

Buying online

  • If you purchased something online, the Consumer Contracts Regulations allow you to cancel your order within 14 days if you don’t want it. You then have a further 14 days to return it.
  • The reason why you have stronger rights to return an unwanted item purchased online is because it’s reasonable to expect that goods purchased online may not be as you expected them to be.
  • For example, if you order a jumper online which looked nice but once it’s been delivered you discover it’s made from a scratchy material you don’t like.
  • There are some exclusions to online returns, which include things like personalised items and perishable items.

Faulty goods: Buying in store vs buying online

Everything you buy must conform to the Consumer Rights Act, which says all goods and services must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

If your goods don’t conform to this, then they are classed as a faulty good and can be returned for a refund, repair or replacement depending on the length of time you’ve owned it for.

This statutory right applies regardless of whether you purchased the goods online or in store.

If you have a product which you think is faulty, claim a refund, repair or replacement by starting a faulty goods claim.

Your four most important statutory rights

Consumer Rights Act 2015

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 defines what your rights are if you’ve bought goods which aren’t up to scratch. The Consumer Rights Act states that all products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

If what you’ve bought doesn’t satisfy any one of the three criteria outlined above, you have the right to make claim for a refund, repair or replacement depending on how long you’ve had the faulty item for.

The Consumer Rights Act also covers services. The term ‘service’ covers a wide variety of services, including large and small-scale work you might have carried out in your home or elsewhere.

The service contract is governed by the Consumer Rights Act, which means you can use this as protection should anything go wrong.

Think you might have a faulty good? Just answer some simple questions and pop your name and email address in at the end, and we’ll send you a ready-to-go letter you can send to the retailer.

Start your faulty goods claim and get your money back.

Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 explains key information retailers must provide to you when you buy your goods.

The specific information varies depending on whether the sale is made at a distance (for example, online or over the phone) or face-to-face somewhere that’s not the business premises of the trader (also known as ‘off-premises’) or in a store.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations also explains your right to cancel an order, the length of time you have to do so and your right to a refund.

If you’ve bought something and are now looking to return it, read our detailed returns guide which will tell you what your rights are depending on how you purchased your goods.

Consumer Protection Act 1987

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 gives you the right to claim compensation against the producer of a defective product if it has caused damage, death or personal injury.

The act also contains a strict liability test for defective products in UK Law making the producer of that product automatically liable for any damage caused.

Anyone who suffers damage as a result of the defect is entitled to claim - not just the person who bought the product.

To learn more about the claims you can make and who is defined as the ‘producer’ of the defective product, read our Consumer Protection Act 1987 guide.

Consumer Credit Act 1974

Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, your credit card company is just as responsible as the retailer or trader for the goods or service supplied.

This means you can put your claim to the credit card company if you’re having difficulty getting your money back from the retailer. But you can’t recover your losses from both.

This right is particularly useful if the retailer or trader has gone bust or it doesn’t respond to your letters or phone calls.

Other statutory rights for consumers

Sometimes in life you need to understand and lean on your knowledge statutory rights more than you'd like to.

Our regulations guides to key consumer legislation can help you understand your statutory rights across a range of areas. Here are two more regulations we cover in detail which can help you understand your statutory rights around package holidays and dodgy sales tactics:

  • The Package Travel Regulations can help you if you booked a package holiday it didn’t turn out to be the holiday that you booked and paid for. If the holiday doesn’t match the description, you may have a claim against the tour operator for compensation.
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations protects from unfair or misleading trading practices and aggressive sales tactics. So, if you've been the victim of a misleading action - for example a false statement - or aggressive selling, you have the right to undo the contract, a right to a discount on a paid price and an entitlement to seek damages.

Visit our regulations guides for more UK consumer law.

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