Consumer remedies

[Project now completed]


Team members
Gillian Swanson, Project Manager
Laurence Diver, Legal Assistant

Latest news

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 has implemented the recommendations in the Report below.

Our final Joint Report on Consumer Remedies for Faulty Goods (Scot Law Com No 216) was published in November 2009.

The Scottish Government gave their initial response to the Report in January 2010.

The Report is in response to a reference from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (formerly the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) which asked both Commissions to look at simplifying the remedies which are available to consumers when they purchase goods which do not conform to contract because, for example, they are faulty. It is part of a wider review of the eight existing European Commission consumer directives.

The current law is complex as there are two legal regimes:

  • (1) Under traditional UK law, consumers are entitled to reject the goods and receive a full refund ("the right to reject"), provided they act within "a reasonable time". However, the court cases give little guidance on how long a reasonable time lasts.
  • (2) This has been supplemented by the European 1999 Consumer Sales Directive, which states that consumers are entitled to a repair or replacement. If the retailer is unable to repair or replace the goods in a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience, the consumer may then ask for a refund ("rescission") or a reduction in price.

In October 2008, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on consumer rights which would (among other things) reform the law in this area. It is based on “full harmonisation”, which means that member states could not provide rights that differ from those the reformed directive requires.

Our Report makes recommendations on consumer remedies, in the light of the proposed directive. We put our recommendations forward as part of the current European debate about the proposed directive, with the intention of improving the remedies suggested in it. Our aim is law which is easily understood and fair to both consumers and retailers.

In brief, we recommend the retention of the right to reject; a normal period of 30 days for the right to reject to last; an entitlement to ask for a refund or price reduction after one failed repair or one failed replacement; retention of the protection for consumers who purchase goods with minor defects; the abolition of deduction for use in relation to rescission; and that the time limits for bringing claims should continue to be those which apply to general contractual claims. A summary of our principal recommendations can be found at the beginning of the Report and in the separate Outline.

Published papers relating to this project:

Consultation Paper:

Joint Consultation Paper on Consumer Remedies for Faulty Goods - 10 November 2008
Appendix C: the European Consumer Centre Questionnaire (PDF)
Appendix D: the Comparative Study (PDF)
Summary of Consultation Paper
News release
Summary of responses to joint Consultation Paper – 13 May 2009
Overview of summary of responses


Joint Report on Consumer Remedies for Faulty Goods - 4 November 2009
Outline of recommendations
News release

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Page archive date: 21 April 2010