Trading standards leafletsRef: 122527
The Consumer Credit Act 1974 defines and sets out the rules which apply to consumer hire agreements. The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (as amended) states that you can expect hired goods to be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for their purpose or any purpose made known to the trader.
Safety legislation entitles you to expect that hired goods are safe. The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 require the terms of the contract to be fair, clear and not restrict a consumer's rights. When you hire goods you have a duty to take reasonable care of them.
In the guide
Points to note
Your obligations when you hire goods
When you hire goods as a consumer from a trader, the law gives you and the trader rights and obligations. The laws applicable to the hire of goods are set out below:
THE SUPPLY OF GOODS AND SERVICES ACT 1982
When a trader hires out goods to a consumer, a service is provided so the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (as amended) applies. You are entitled to expect that the hire service is carried out:
- with reasonable care and skill
- in a reasonable time (if there is no specific time agreed)
- for a reasonable charge (if no fixed price was set in advance)
The goods supplied as part of the hire contract must be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for their intended purpose and any purpose made known to the trader
- as described
If you hire goods which do not conform to the contract, which means they are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described, you have the right to redress. The type of goods hired, the nature of the breach and the length of the hire contract can determine the remedy you are entitled to. These remedies can be repair or replacement of the goods or full or partial refund, if the hire contract is cancelled or altered.
You may also be entitled to claim consequential damages (losses you incur as a direct result of the trader hiring faulty goods out to you). You are also entitled to expect that any public statements, particularly those contained in advertising and labelling, about the specific characteristics of the hired goods are not misleading.
Check out the 'Buying goods - your rights' and the 'Buying services - your rights' leaflets for more information.
THE CONSUMER CREDIT ACT 1974
The Consumer Credit Act 1974 defines a consumer hire agreement as an agreement made by a person with an individual (the 'hirer') for the hiring of goods, where the following applies:
- the agreement is not a hire purchase agreement
- the agreement must last for more than three months
The agreement must be in writing and signed by you and the trader. You must be given a copy of the agreement which contains all the hire terms. You may have cancellation rights if you sign the agreement at home but regardless of where you sign, make sure that you read all the terms and conditions before you sign.
Short-term hire agreements (less than 3 months), for example a suit for a wedding, are not regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974 but the trader should still provide you with a written agreement as well as the terms and conditions applicable to the hire. Long-term hire agreements, for example the hire of a motor vehicle for longer than 3 months, are regulated agreements and are governed by the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
The Consumer Credit Act 1974 sometimes gives the hirer a right to terminate the agreement by giving written notice to the trader, if:
- the hire agreement has run for at least 18 months, unless a shorter period is provided for in the agreement.
- the hirer must give a minimum notice period of either three months, or the shortest interval between the due dates, under the agreement ie if you pay in monthly instalments one months notice would be ok.
The right to terminate does not apply where the hire payments are more than £1,500 in any one year.
Hire purchase - where you have the option to purchase the goods at the end of the hire term - is not covered in this leaflet.
Check out the 'Your rights when buying on credit' for more information.
THE UNFAIR CONTRACT TERMS ACT 1977 AND THE UNFAIR TERMS IN CONSUMER CONTRACTS REGULATIONS 1999
These laws allow you to challenge standard terms and conditions that may be unfair or unreasonable to you as a consumer. Standard terms and conditions used by the trader should be written in clear language. It is illegal to have a contract term that attempts to restrict consumers' rights. In some cases, your local trading standards service or the Office of Fair Trading may be able to take action to prevent a company from using unfair terms in their contracts. However it is usually only a court that can decide whether a term can be considered 'unfair'. Individual consumers can take their own legal action - a contract term which the court finds unfair is not binding on the consumer. Contact Citizens Advice consumer service in the first instance.
THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 1987 AND THE GENERAL PRODUCT SAFETY REGULATIONS 2005 (AS AMENDED)
Product specific safety regulations and the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (as amended) place duties on producers and distributors to supply goods which are safe. Most safety regulations are derived from EU directives, which have been implemented in the UK. Part 1 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 states that if a product has a defect, which causes death, personal injury or damage to property (over £275) then the producer and/or importer are liable.
If you believe that goods you have bought or used are unsafe, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service, for referral to trading standards. Trading standards enforces the laws which prevent the supply of unsafe goods. If you are seeking compensation, you should contact a solicitor.
Points to note
Agreements for accommodation rentals are covered by separate laws so you should consult a local authority private sector housing officer, Citizens Advice or a solicitor if you have problems with the property itself. However, goods provided in the property are subject to safety laws. When choosing rented, furnished, accommodation, check the furnishings and appliances carefully. Make sure that they comply with the laws that are in place to protect you from defective items that can cause injury or death. Often letting agents as well as landlords are liable if goods supplied with the tenancy are not of the standard required by law. Check out the 'Product safety in rented accommodation for tenants' leaflet for more information.
If you paid for the hire of goods by credit card, and if the cost was more than £100, you are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the card provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or a misrepresentation. You are entitled to take action against the trader, the card provider or both. This does not apply to charge cards or debit cards. If you are dissatisfied with the credit card provider's response and the Consumer Credit Act 1974 applies then complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The trader will hold you liable for loss or damage of the hired goods whilst they are in your possession but they may offer you insurance cover as part of the hire service. Always obtain a copy of the insurance policy terms and conditions and check them carefully before going ahead.
Disputes over damage to goods and return of deposits may occur. Always read the terms and conditions of the hire contract before you agree to the hire. Check the hired goods as soon as you can and ensure that defects you see at the time of hire are noted in writing. Be aware that difficulties can arise when determining where 'fair wear and tear' ends and 'damage' begins. Always inspect hired goods on return and obtain written confirmation that there has been no damage before you leave them.
If you hire power tools, electrical equipment or similar items, make sure that the equipment is in good condition and is 'CE' marked (conforms to the requirements of the relevant regulations). You have the legal right to expect that they are safe. You should also be given instructions with any item in order to operate it safely and if in doubt seek the advice of the trader.
Car hire agreements, especially for foreign hire, can be complex and difficult to understand. Make sure you are properly insured and take advice from a motoring organisation if you belong to one. Obtain all agreements in writing. Members of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (www.bvrla.co.uk) abide by a code of conduct and have a complaints procedure. You can contact BVRLA at River Lodge, Badminton Court, Church Street, Amersham, Bucks HP7 0DD, Tel: 01494 434747. If you have a problem with an overseas based business within the European Union then contact the UK European Consumer Centre on 08456 04 05 03.
Your obligations when you hire goods
When you hire goods, they belong to the trader which hired them to you and you have responsibilities as well as rights. You are not liable for fair wear and tear to the goods in normal use, BUT you have a duty to take reasonable care of them.
If you do not comply with the terms of the agreement, do something with the goods which you should not or do not give the goods back when the hire is finished, the trader may be entitled to repossess them. If you return the goods late, you may be liable to pay penalty charges. If the goods are damaged, you may forfeit your security deposit to cover the cost of repair or replacement. If the trader's losses are greater than the security deposit you have paid, the trader may take action against you to recover the additional costs.
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted.
For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.
Consumer Credit Act 1974
Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
Consumer Protection Act 1987
Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
General Product Safety Regulations 2005
Last reviewed/updated: October 2012
© 2013 itsa Ltd on behalf of the Trading Standards Institute.