The UK Consumer Rights Act – the impact for booksellers

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The introduction of the Consumer Rights Act is important for all retailers.

It applies to anyone selling “any tangible moveable items” so that applies to books, manuscripts, ephemera, maps and pretty much anything that a member of the book trade could sell (except their premises.) The first thing to remember is that for all the jargon, this isn’t too bad for the trade, and any difficulties it may present us can be overcome with professional conduct.

The new legislation assumes that consumer rights form part of our contract with the client. Any goods sold to a consumer must be “of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and matching its description.” (ATG, issue 2211). Clearly, when dealing with rare and second hand items, the condition is unlikely to be “new” or “as new” so any description made by a bookseller must by its nature be somewhat open to interpretation. It is to avoid this that good bibliographical and condition descriptions become important. (for an excellent and handy guide to proper bibliography, see Laurence Worms excellent new guide “Cataloguing for Booksellers.” *) Once sold, a consumer has rights under the 30 day rule.

This simply means that under the new legislation, a consumer can return to the seller within 30 days if the item is not fit for purpose, or as described. With rare / second hand items, the opportunity to offer a replacement are limited, so the consumer has the right to reject the goods, or to obtain a price reduction.

For those items sold in person, condition has been ascertained, so it is only likely to become an issue where a consumer later notices defects not clearly specified (such as missing plates, or a miss-attribution of date / edition). With distance selling, the description is of more importance than ever. But ultimately, the members of the trade associations should be protected by our professionalism. If we describe correctly, we are safe. If we make errors, we must give refunds.

What this really boils down to in terms of work for members of the trade, is that our “terms and conditions of sale” will need to reflect a willingness to accept returns within 30 days if the goods are not “as described.” We should all be aware that whether we update our terms and conditions or not, we will have to abide by the legislation, and that it overrides any contrary terms we may try to impose.

Finally, there is an important exemption in the Act that will affect many of the trade. The act talks of Consumers. A consumer is a member of the public who makes a purchase. If we are selling to another retailer, then these are considered “trader to trader” contracts, and so are outside the reach of this legislation. Phew!

*published by the Rare Book Society. The entry for this item on Mr Worms website is a beautiful example of his preferred form of description!

One thought on “The UK Consumer Rights Act – the impact for booksellers

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