Consumer rights when purchasing digital content

The Consumer Rights Act gives consumers protection when it comes to digital downloads that fail to work, i.e. are corrupt. Consumers are entitled to a repair or replacement if the digital content is faulty and even compensation if other downloads or devices are affected.
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Digital content is 'data which are produced and supply in digital form.' This means you have rights in relation to anything you download or stream, including apps, software, ebooks, games or music. It can be something online you have paid for, something given to you for free with a paid-for item and any content supplied on a physical medium, such as a CD or DVD.

Digital content must be:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose; and
  • as described by the seller.

If your digital content does not meet these criteria and develops a fault, you have the right to have your digital product repaired or replaced.

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, digital downloads are neither goods nor services, meaning the law is a little different. If you want to download something within 14 days of buying it (what is known as the 'cooling-off period'), you will have to give your consent to waive the 14-day cooling-off period.

If you do not give your consent, the 14-day cooling-off period still applies, however, you will not be able to download your digital content until this period has ended.

This is to stop you from changing your mind after you have downloaded the content.

The retailer from whom you purchased the digital content has one opportunity to replace any goods or digital content that are faulty before you can claim a refund. You can choose whether you want the goods to be repaired or replaced, but the retailer can refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared with the alternative.

Partial refund

You may be entitled to a partial refund in the following circumstances:

  • The cost or repair/replacement is disproportionate to the value of the digital content.
  • Repair/replacement is impossible.
  • Repair/replacement would take unreasonably long.
  • Repair has been unsuccessful.

If you don't want a refund and still want your product repaired or replaced, you have the right to request that the retailer makes further attempts at repair/replacement.

Compensation

The retailer must compensate you if any device or other digital content you own is damaged as a result of the faulty digital content you've downloaded. This only applies where that damage wouldn't have occurred had 'reasonable care and skill' been exercised in the provision of the digital content (even if that content was provided for free).

If you've made a genuine mistake with a download purchase, contact the retailer to see if you can get a refund or exchange the download for one you want. It's worth checking the retailer's terms and conditions, as some retailers offer refunds or exchanges as a gesture of goodwill here; even if you've waived your right to cancel.

Typically any goods or services which are sold to consumers online, at a distance, or away from the trader's premises, must allow for a minimum 14 day 'cooling off' period during which the contract can be cancelled (either 14 days from receipt of goods or from the date of entering into a contract for services). 

14 days is the minimum cooling-off period that a seller must give. There are, however, certain products and services that do not qualify for the 14 day cooling off period:

  • Exempted products include CDs, DVDs or software where the seal has been broken; also perishable items and tailor-made or personalised items.
  • Exempted services include leisure service activities on specific dates such as car hire, wedding venues, theatre tickets for specific performances, etc. For these services, the consumer has the same cancellation rights as if they were signing the contract in person. 

For digital downloads, consumers will need to waive their cancellation rights before digital content can be provided. This means that once a consumer/customer has downloaded the content, then they have given up their consumer rights to a refund. 

Consumers will typically waive these cancellation rights when they purchase the digital goods. This can be done through some form of verification box (such as a tickbox) for consumers to acknowledge that they have waived their consumer rights to a refund for digital content. 

Corrupted Digital Content

Please bear in mind, that the Consumer Rights Act gives consumers protection when it comes to digital downloads that fail to work (ie. digital downloads that are corrupt). Consumers are entitled to a repair or replacement if the digital content is faulty and even compensation if other downloads or devices are affected.

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