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What could the 2015 Consumer Rights Act mean for eBay sellers?

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From October, UK consumers will have new, easy-to-understand rights when it comes to getting a refund. Where previously retailers could set refund policies at their own discretion, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives customers the right to a refund within 30 days if an item is faulty, not fit for purpose, or not as described by the seller at the time of purchase. Auction-style sales are not covered, however any fixed-price goods purchased are - even if they are second hand. So how could this impact your eBay business?

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The new rules

If 30 days have passed, but it has been less than 6 months since the purchase, the retailer is obliged to offer either a replacement or repair of the item. Beyond this, the consumer can still request a replacement or repair within reason although they must provide proof of a manufacturer fault. The Act covers not only physical goods but also digital products such as music downloads and DVDs, and services such as beauty treatments or photography.

Under the new Consumer Rights Act, there is now a clear process which must be followed if a customer is not satisfied with their purchase. A buyer can reject the goods even at the very last stage in the process if they do not believe the solution provided is satisfactory.

The problem of repairs

Where previously an eBay seller could state to customers that they will not accept returns (unless the item does not match its description as covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee), the new laws mean that they will have no choice but to offer the option. The buyer is also well within their rights to request a repair at the cost of the seller, if this is considered a reasonable course of action. This in itself presents something of a complication for sellers, who may need to send items away to their original manufacturers - this can be a long-winded process and the expense of doing so may swallow up profit.

New legal support for buyers

While eBay of course has its Resolution Centre to settle disputes over transactions and refunds, UK consumers are also entitled to use an external and independent service called ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ (ADR), before moving forward to court proceedings if necessary. This service is free for all consumers to use, but traders will have to pay fees.

The service can take the form of a more informal approach such as mediation to reach an agreement, or buyers and sellers can submit written evidence to an arbitrator for review, however their decision is legally binding and cannot be appealed in court.

Although few sales will end in ADR except for in extreme circumstances, the possible financial impact of such a situation is a cause for concern for sole traders and smaller eBay shop-holders if they must shoulder the cost.

Good news in the long run?

Ultimately, the Act has been designed to raise standards and ensure consumers feel supported in their rights no matter where they are buying from. As Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson puts it: ‘Well-informed, confident consumers are vital for driving continued growth and building a stronger economy.’

While there will be some traders with reservations about the impact the Consumer Rights Act 2015 could have, it’s worth considering that Swinson may be right - confident customers who can trust that they have the law to fall back on if something goes wrong will of course be more likely to shop through mediums like eBay, where they might previously have been put off by a ‘no returns’ policy.

To find out more about what our returns handling services at James and James Fulfilment can do for your business, click here.

October 26th, 2015 by Jonnie Davis

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