Page 2: What is consumer protection and what does it do?
A market is where buyers and sellers come together to engage in business. Sellers seek money from sales, consumers wish to buy something they want or need. The situation suits both parties, as long as they both gain from the exchange.
Buyers want to buy products at the best price possible. However, in order to stay in business, retailers must ensure that they make a profit by selling products at a price which covers all costs and provides a profit for risk taking and future development. Costs include the price at which the product was purchased, staff costs, store operation costs, delivery and other overheads. Buyers have a right to expect that the goods are safe, properly described, priced correctly and will continue to work for a reasonable period of time.
Reputable companies like DSGi recognise that the customer has the right to expect these things as a basic minimum. However, in a totally open uncontrolled market rogue traders could mis-describe products deliberately, sell damaged, unsafe or unfit products to customers who would have no redress.
In order to control the market, the government has introduced a number of laws giving customers rights about the quality of the goods they buy. It has created criminal offences if sellers mis-describe, charge the wrong price or sell unsafe products.
The main consumer protection laws in the UK are:
- Sale of Goods Act 1979 (with amendments) which gives customers their fundamental legal rights which cannot be excluded or taken away.
- Trade Descriptions Act 1968, which requires a trader to describe goods accurately.
- Consumer Protection Act 1987 which deals with both pricing and product safety.
There are many other laws which control credit, the sale of age restricted products (e.g. DVDs and videos) and specific laws relating to different sectors of the economy e.g. food, alcohol and medicines.