World Consumer Rights Day 2010

Today is World Consumer Rights Day, and the theme for 2010 is "our money, our rights".  Consumers in the UK now benefit from wide-ranging protection (which is predominantly statutory), including the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the Consumer Credit Act 1974, and a raft of Regulations implementing European Directives.  The most recent consumer protection developments in the UK have been those to reflect Europe-wide concerns, and perhaps the most notable is the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, implemented as the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

Despite these legislative developments, research published by Which? today suggests that consumers are still unclear about their rights.  Perhaps the statistic which gives greatest cause for concern is that 70% of consumers believe a receipt is necessary in order to return an item.  Conversely, while purchasers have underestimated their rights in this regard, 60% have overestimated them in relation to returning goods simply because they have changed their mind:  only 4 in 10 realised that there is no right to return goods if they no longer want them.  This misplaced belief is arguably the negative result of the otherwise positive practice of shops in the UK routinely offering consumers stronger rights than they are obliged to.

The survey of over 1000 adults in the UK makes for interesting reading, and raises the question whether consumer rights are effectual if there is a lack of awareness of these statutory protections?