Consumer Law

Did you know that as a customer, you are protected under numerous laws that oblige businesses to serve you in an appropriate manner? For example, the products you buy have to comply with their description. It means that they have to look and work as described on the website or label. 

Consumer Law Consumer Law

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Table of contents

    If the goods are not in compliance, the customer is eligible for free repairs, replacement, or even a refund. The term 'consumer law' refers to all the rules and regulations regarding customers and how they should be treated by businesses. Read along to find out more.

    Consumer law Definition and importance

    There are many ways in which businesses can treat their customers unfairly. For example, they might sell products and services that do not match their description in terms of appearance, quality, or quantity. Businesses are obliged to follow certain rules and regulations in relation to how they treat their customers.

    Consumer law refers to laws that prevent businesses from treating their customers unfairly.

    Consumer laws oblige businesses to treat customers in a certain manner. These laws are passed by the government to protect customers against issues such as fraud or the practice of mis-selling when they buy a product or service. Customer laws are also referred to as consumer protection laws.

    Why is consumer law important?

    Since consumer law protects customers from being treated unfairly by businesses, it has a significant meaning for those who face issues such as fraud or mis-selling. Consumer law dictates that the customer should be subject to fair treatment and in case of any issues they are eligible for compensation such as repair, replacement, or a refund.

    Imagine you purchased a laptop online. It arrived late, and the product was incorrect. Consumer law states that you have a right to ask for a replacement or a refund. If the business does not do this, you can claim legal action or sue and ask for compensation.

    Principles of consumer law

    In the United Kingdom, the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 provides consumers with rights and protection when purchasing goods and services. Since 2015, this act has made consumer law clearer and easier to understand, enabling consumers to approach sellers with confidence.

    The Consumer Rights Act covers:

    • Product quality

    • Returning goods

    • Repairs and replacement

    • Delivery rights

    • Unfair terms in contracts.

    Consumer law requires all products and services to be of satisfactory quality, i.e., in good condition and not damaged or broken. It also requires that the product is as described, i.e., looks the way the business claims, and serves the purpose described on its label. If a product or service does not meet these standards, a consumer has a right to either return it or ask for a repair or replacement.

    Since more and more products are being delivered to consumers, lawmakers have dedicated a special section of consumer law to delivery rights. This section protects consumers whose products have been delivered late or not delivered at all.

    Consumer protection law also protects consumers against unfair terms in contracts, including any hidden fees and charges.

    The aforementioned are the main aspects of consumer law. There are additional laws regarding sale of products, product labelling, product safety, and use of information technology (see table 1 below).

    Sale of products

    Product labelling

    Product safety

    Using information technology

    Consumer Rights ActLabelling of Food RegulationsFood ActComputer Misuse
    Consumer Credit ActWeights and Measures ActFood Safety ActData Protection Act
    Unfair Trading RegulationsConsumer Protection Act

    Table 1. Consumer laws in the United Kingdom

    Sale of products

    There are several laws regarding the sale of products and how it should be conducted.

    The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 covers areas such as product quality, return of goods, repairs and replacement, delivery rights, and unfair terms in contracts.

    The Consumer Credit Act of 1974 covers the process of buying products using loans. It prevents businesses from charging high interest rates to consumers who take out loans to buy expensive goods. Additionally, it allows consumers a week to withdraw from the agreement.

    Product labelling

    In the UK, the law requires the majority of products to feature a label with important information about the product.

    The Labelling of Food Regulations Act of 1970 states that consumers should be provided with the correct information to make confident food choices based on their diet, allergies, personal taste, and budget. Therefore in the UK, all packaged food must be labelled with the ingredients listed.

    The Weights and Measures Act of 1985 states that the majority of food and drink sold must have quantities, weights, and measures written clearly on packets or containers.

    The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act of 2008 protects consumers from unfair or misleading trading practices. The law obliges sellers to provide consumers with correct information about products and services and bans aggressive sales tactics by door-to-door salespeople.

    Product safety

    In the UK, products and services sold to customers have to meet certain criteria regarding safety.

    The Food Act of 1984 was designed to make sure that all food products are safe and suitable for human consumption. The act states what ingredients can and cannot be added to food products. Moreover, it regulates food preparation and the places food can be sold.

    The Food Safety Act of 1990 obliges businesses to treat products meant for human consumption in a certain way. It bans selling food that is unsafe and/or might cause illnesses. The law applies to farmers, restaurants and shops.

    The Consumer Protection Act of 1987 gives customers the right to claim compensation if a product causes death, damage, or injury. The act forbids businesses to sell products that are dangerous.

    Use of information technology

    When selling products and services, especially online, businesses collect information about their customers. This includes names, credit card details, addresses, and phone numbers. Having access to such personal information means that businesses have to use it in a sensitive manner.

    The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 aims to secure computer material against unauthorised access and/or modification. It prevents people from accessing information they do not have the right to use.

    The Data Protection Act of 1998 was created to protect the personal information of consumers that is stored by businesses. It obligates businesses to store data securely to avoid any data leaks that could cause theft and/or loss. It also prevents businesses from sharing data with other businesses without customer agreement.

    Advantages of consumer law

    Consumer protection law brings benefits to both consumers and businesses.

    For consumers

    1. Ensures that consumers are sold products that fit, are safe and as described

    Consumer law obliges businesses to keep up certain quality standards for their products.

    2. Gives consumers a right to return products or have them repaired or replaced

    Under consumer protection law, if a product purchased by a customer is not satisfactory, they are allowed to return it or have it repaired or replaced for free.

    3. Protects consumers against fraud or miss-selling

    Thanks to consumer law, customers that have not been provided with a product as promised have the right to ask for compensation.

    For businesses

    1. Encourages consumers to buy expensive and complex products

    Owing to consumer law, consumers feel more protected and confident when making a purchase. This applies particularly to products that are more expensive and complex and therefore riskier to buy. If consumers are encouraged to buy the products, sales and profits increase.

    2. Encourages businesses to produce and sell products that fit, are safe and as described

    Since consumer law obliges businesses to keep certain quality standards, they are more likely to do so. In order to be in compliance with the law, they must sell products that are satisfactory for consumers. This increases profits and invites customer loyalty.

    As you can see, consumer law plays an important role both for those who buy and those who sell products and services. It ensures that customers are treated fairly and protects them against issues such as fraud and miss-selling. Consumer protection law additionally benefits reputable businesses who follow the law to gain an increased customer base and increase their profits.

    Consumer law - Key takeaways

    • Consumer law refers to laws that prevent businesses from treating their customers unfairly.
    • This legislation is passed by the government to protect customers against issues such as fraud or miss-selling when they buy a product or service.
    • Owing to consumer law, not only do customers have to be treated fairly, but in case of any issues, they are eligible for compensation such as repairs, replacement, or even a refund.
    • In the United Kingdom, an act that provides consumers with rights and protection when purchasing goods and services is the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
    • The Consumer Rights Act covers: product quality, returning goods, repairs and replacement, delivery rights, and unfair terms in contracts.
    • Consumer law covers aspects such as the sale of products, product labelling, product safety, and use of information technology.
    • Consumer protection law brings benefits to both consumers and businesses.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Consumer Law

    What is a consumer law?

    Consumer law refers to laws that prevent businesses from treating their customers unfairly.  

    What does the consumer law cover?

    The Consumer Rights Act covers:


    • Product quality

    • Returning goods

    • Repairs and replacement

    • Delivery rights

    • Unfair terms in contracts.

    What are the 3 principles of consumer law?

    3 principles of consumer law:

    1. The product must be of satisfactory quality, i.e., in good condition and not damaged or broken. 
    2. the product must be as described, i.e., looks the way the business claims, 
    3. The product must serve the purpose described on its label.  

    Why is consumer law important?

    Consumer law is important as consumer protection law brings benefits to both consumers and businesses. Since consumer law protects customers from being treated unfairly by businesses, it has a significant meaning for those who face issues such as fraud or mis-selling. Consumer law dictates that the customer should be subject to fair treatment and in case of any issues they are eligible for compensation such as repair, replacement, or a refund.  

    What is a good example of consumer protection law?

    One good example of consumer law is the food safety act.

    The Food Safety Act of 1990 obliges businesses to treat products meant for human consumption in a certain way. It bans selling food that is unsafe and/or might cause illnesses. The law applies to farmers, restaurants and shops. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Consumer laws and consumer protection laws are the same thing.

    Which act/regulations include/s laws regarding the sale of products?

    Which act/regulations include/s laws regarding product safety?

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