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New UK Bill Proposes Consumer Refunds for Faulty Internet Downloads

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 (1:52 pm) - Score 845

Anybody in the UK whom has ever purchased and downloaded a piece of digital software or content over their broadband ISP connection, and which later turned out to be faulty (e.g. didn’t work on your computer), could soon be entitled to a refund under the government’s draft Consumer Rights Bill.

At present it can be very tricky to gain redress when you buy and download something online that doesn’t work as intended (e.g. music, films, video games, applications and ebooks). We’ve had similar experiences ourselves when buying games over the STEAM digital distribution platform or finding that an app wasn’t compatible with our model of phone. Unfortunately once this happens then it can often be extremely difficult to gain a refund or to even contact customer support.

Suffice to say that the Internet may be cheaper but it’s certainly a lot more difficult to return goods, especially those of the digital variety. Naturally this can create a barrier for consumers and that’s one reason why the new bill aims to give more powers to Trading Standards (e.g. to help you get a refund) and to clarify unfair contract terms.

Richard Lloyd, Executive Director of Consumer Magazine Which?, said:

The new Bill of Rights will bring consumer law into the 21st century at last, making it easier for everyone to know their rights and giving people more power to challenge bad practices. There are many welcome measures in the Bill, including reforming the law on unfair terms and conditions and giving consumers clear rights when digital downloads go wrong.”

Currently some of the measures already exist but have been split across different legislation and the new bill will aim to centralise this and give it a clear focus on the consumer. Some of the other proposals include a 30-day time period in which consumers can seek a refund for faulty goods and or the ability to seek a repair (e.g. software fix).

The government’s Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), which launched the bill today, claims that 16 million people experienced at least one problem with digital content in 2011. As a result it estimates that the new measures could potentially save consumers and businesses around £1.7 billion over the next 10 years.

However it’s unclear how effective the bill might be in enforcing such measures on content purchased online from other countries. The detail is extremely vague.

Draft Consumer Rights Bill
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-consumer-rights-bill

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. dragoneast says:

    I’ve used Play’s useful 15 minute or so window for refunds a few times on my Android. But although I’m no software expert isn’t it often the case that software doesn’t work as expected due to an incompatibility with other software you’re running, or falls foul of a security setting – and I don’t see how every vendor can be expected to guarantee that won’t happen. (What about MS updates which commonly mess about with pre-existing software?). As usual the decent suppliers will behave responsibly as they do now, and the less good will still get away with it. Another piece of do-good PR rights. The bill as always will be paid by the consumer in the form of higher prices. Peace of mind for the stupid or ignorant always comes at a high price for everyone. It saves us the inconvenience of learning from experience.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      “isn’t it often the case that software doesn’t work as expected”

      Yes you make a good point and we’ve all kind of adapted to the internet and online downloads working that way. On the other hand that doesn’t mean to say you should tolerate it. We don’t tolerate faulty physical goods, which shortly after purchase can fail just the same (e.g. cars, phones etc.), so quite understandably the same protections should apply to our online world too.

      I think a far more contentious aspect is virtual goods like in-game items. For example, if you brought a sword for an in-game avatar that didn’t slice and dice as advertised :).. tricky one. I laugh but for some people it is an issue, especially with the growing culture/abuse of micro-transactions. Some regulation might be helpful.

  2. Phil says:

    They should bring in the first 30 minutes to try it out, if doesn’t work or unhappy with it, then claim a full refund back

  3. hm says:

    haa A torrent file i downloaded of piratebay was corrupt can i have a refund

    1. MikeW says:

      Special deal – you can have back twice what you paid for it 😉

  4. Timeless says:

    my guess is this wont make it through, lobbyists will be right in there with some backhanders in order to try and get it kicked out..

  5. Roberto says:

    As someone above mentioned does something similar not already exist with many on-line services including google play?

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