Digital Retailers Forced To Revise Terms in U.K. Consumer Law Shake Up

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Digital retailers such as Spotify and Apple’s iTunes store will now be held to greater account if users purchase faulty or corrupted content as part of the newly revised Consumer Rights Act. 

Launched Thursday (Oct. 1), the legislation only applies to consumers and retailers operating in the United Kingdom and introduces specific rules to protect online shoppers, including those of music and app download stores and streaming services. 

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Among the revised rules is users' right to demand a replacement for faulty digital content such as films, games, apps, music and eBooks purchased. Another term of the Act is that digital retailers will be required to offer financial compensation if users download a virus or their device becomes corrupted as a consequence of accessing their service. Consumers will also be able to challenge unfair terms and conditions or legal loopholes hidden in the small print, while all digital goods sold must be fit for purpose and "free from minor defects."

"Whether it's downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the Consumer Rights Act makes it easier to understand your rights," said Business Minister Nick Boles in a statement. "These changes will also simplify the law for businesses so they can spend less time worrying about unclear and unwieldy regulations."

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Past versions of the Consumer Rights Act offered little protection to customers purchasing digital goods and loosely stipulated that goods needed to be returned within "a reasonable time" if a customer was unhappy with a product or purchase. The new rules, although yet to be properly tested, theoretically tighten the regulations and offer U.K. consumers, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, far greater protection than ever before. 

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, U.K. consumers spend £90 million ($135 million) a month on goods and services with just over £2.8 billion ($4.2 billion) spent on digital music, video and games in 2014 alone. 

The practical implications of the revised Consumer Rights Act for music retailers as a result are, however, relatively minor due to the rarity of download stores selling faulty files or streaming platforms failing to provide their advertised service. The complexities in proving that a computer virus was downloaded from a particular service or retailer also raises questions about how a consumer would appeal for compensation should their device become corrupted following a purchase.  


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