In the area of consumer protection, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) serves as a crucial safeguard for individuals facing issues with goods or services. In relation to goods, the CRA identifies certain minimum standards which any goods must meet. For instance, goods must be of satisfactory quality i.e. not faulty; fit for purpose and must match any description given. If these standards are not met the individual will be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.
If these basic standards are not met, they are deemed not to conform to contract and the consumer has certain remedies open to them against the trader. Within this comprehensive legislation lies a powerful tool for consumers – the legal right to reject.
In this blog, we will dig into the details of this right, exploring its implications and recent developments in a notable judgment from the Court of Session, King v Black Horse Limited & Park’s Ayr Limited  CSIH 3.
Table of Contents
- Consumer rights to reject
- Post-Rejection Use
- A Landmark Judgement
- Contact Jones Whyte’s Dispute Resolution Team Today
Consumer rights to reject
If the goods do not meet the required standards under the CRA, the consumer has a period of 30 days from delivery/possession to reject them and, in most circumstances, demand a full refund. This is known as the short-term right to reject.
It is also open to the consumer to agree to a repair or replacement of the goods. If the repair or replacement does not resolve the issue and the goods still do not conform to contract, then the consumer has the right to a reduction in price, or a final right to reject.
If the final right to reject is exercised, the consumer may be entitled to a refund, although, if the right to reject is exercised after 6 months of delivery/collection, the trader may deduct a sum to take into account of use which the consumer had from the goods. In the case of motor vehicles, deductions for use can also be made if the vehicle is rejected within the first 6 months.
If the goods do not conform to contract at any time within six months of delivery or possession, then they are presumed to not have conformed on that day. For instance, if a fault is discovered within the first six months, the fault is presumed to have been there at the time that the consumer takes possession of the goods. It is therefore for the trader to prove otherwise if the fault was discovered within this period.
One issue which has caused complications for the consumer over the years, has been in relation to post-rejection use. This is where the consumer has intimated their right to reject, yet continued to use the goods after doing so.
While the right to reject is an effective remedy, continued use may imply that the consumer is no longer relying on that right, making it challenging to argue for a complete refund.
It is often argued by traders that any use after an item has been rejected bars the consumer from exercising and pursuing this right. Such arguments have been regularly heard in the Scottish courts, particularly where a consumer rejected a vehicle and continued to use it after the apparent rejection. Whilst, the consumer would have other rights, until recently, it was largely accepted that post-rejection use acted as an absolute bar to pursuing any legal claims to reject goods.
A Landmark Judgement
In the recent judgement in the case of King v Black Horse Limited & Park’s Ayr Limited  CSIH 3, the Court of Session provided important clarification in relation to the right to reject. The court stated that there is no absolute bar on claims for rejection, even if there has been post-rejection use.
The consumer, Mr King, had entered into a hire purchase agreement with Black Horse Ltd through a dealership, Parks Ayr Ltd. Mr King intimated his rejection of the vehicle by arguing that it was defective at the point of sale, for reasons connected with non-performance of the diesel particulate filter.
The defenders had been successful in having the claim summarily dismissed on the basis that the law barred any use of goods post-rejection. They relied on case law from 1845, which they argued was still good law. Both the Sheriff at first instance and the Sheriff Appeal Court agreed with this assessment of the law.
With the intervention of the Competition and Markets Authority, Mr King appealed the case to the Court of Session. It was argued that the law had changed following the introduction of the CRA in 2015, which provided the consumer with much more protection and more powerful statutory remedy of rejection.
Much was made by the court of the EU Directive which set out the minimum standards for Consumer Rights Law in the Members States and paved the way for the CRA. The court confirmed their view that Parliament clearly had in mind a purpose of significantly strengthening consumer rights when drafting the provisions of the CRA 2015. The court assessed that the level of protection now afforded to consumers was now much higher and that the power imbalance which previously existed between consumer and trader, in favour of the trader, is thus to a substantial degree inverted.
The court also looked at the practicalities of rejection cases, where the consumer has exercised their right of rejection, however the trader has refused to engage.
Accordingly, the court held that post-rejection use does not act as a complete bar to a consumer seeking to exercise their legal remedy of rejection.
The case will now be sent back to the Sheriff Court to determine the facts of the case and decide whether Mr King is entitled to the remedies for which he seeks. It remains to be seen whether the case will be appealed further to the UK Supreme Court.
This ruling highlights the complicated nature of consumer rights, emphasising that each case is unique and must be assessed independently. It is essential for both consumers and traders to be cautious and seek professional advice if uncertainties arise in relation to the rejection process.
If you find yourself in need of guidance or representation, Jones Whyte is here to help. We are committed to providing informed and effective legal assistance to individuals or businesses seeking advice in relation to such matters.
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The CRA provides legal rights and remedies in relation to services, digital goods and unfair terms. If you would like to receive advice especially to assist resolving disputes, reach out to our dispute resolution team today by calling 0800 292 2042 or visit our website: Consumer Disputes | Jones Whyte Law
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