Your rights when buying or subscribing to digital content and how to get your money back or claim compensation when things go wrong.
What you need to know about your digital content rights
- Whether you’re downloading films, books or games, the law says they must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose.
- If the digital content you’ve paid for is faulty, not as described or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, you should be offered a repair or replacement.
- You will be entitled to some or all of your money back if the fault can’t be fixed or hasn’t been fixed within a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience.
- You have a 14 day right to change your mind and get a full refund on any digital content you buy if you haven’t already downloaded the content.
- Businesses must offer repairs or compensation if free or paid-for digital content damages a device
- Got a problem? Complain first to the business you bought your digital content from. This is who your rights are with. If you don’t get a response or you’re not happy with it then look next at the way you paid. You could have the right to claim your money back via your bank or credit card provider.
In this guide
Your rights when buying digital content
You have rights when you buy digital content – whether you’re downloading music, films or games or buying computer software or mobile apps. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that the digital products you buy must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
What does this mean?
- Satisfactory quality Digital products or content you buy need to be in good condition and without fault or damage – though you might reasonably accept some minor defects that will be fixed with upgrades over time. They should be safe and work well during their expected lifespan.
- As described Digital content must match the description given or shown to you at the time of purchase. When digital products are upgraded they must still match the description, though they can contain new features or enhancements that are not part of the original description.
- Fit for purpose You should be able to use the digital content for what it was advertised for, or the purpose given in its description, and it should last a reasonable amount of time.
These rights apply when you have paid for the content – either as part of a single payment or an ongoing subscription.
Repairs, replacements and refunds on digital content
You have a 14 day right to change your mind and get a full refund on any digital content you buy. You will not have the right to change your mind if you have already downloaded the content – but you need to be told this and to have acknowledged you’ve been told this.
You have certain rights when things go wrong with digital content you’ve bought:
- You’re entitled to a repair or replacement when digital content is faulty – this includes if the digital content is not compatible with your phone or other devices
- You will be entitled to some or all of your money back if the fault can’t be fixed or hasn’t been fixed within a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience
When you have the right to a full refund
Your rights to a full refund aren’t the same for digital content as they are with physical faulty products. You will typically only be entitled to a full refund when the digital content is completely unusable – for instance, an app is corrupt and can’t be opened or an ebook can’t be downloaded.
However, you may also have a claim for a full refund when a portion of the digital content is faulty leaving the whole experience unsatisfactory – for instance, a downloaded film doesn’t play the last five minutes.
Exceptions to your right to repair, replacement or refund
There are exceptions to these rights. You won’t be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if you caused the damage to the digital products through misuse or accident, or if you knew about any problems before you bought the goods.
You won’t be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if you trialled the digital content or product before buying and didn’t spot any problems.
Your rights when digital content damages a device
You can ask for a repair or compensation if digital content damages a device – your phone or laptop, for instance – or other digital content you own.
It can help to find out first how much the problem will cost to be fixed, and then include a copy of the quote when you get in touch with the company you bought the digital content from.
Any repairs must be carried out in a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to you. Or, if a company agrees to pay you compensation, they have up to 14 days to make the payment.
Sony Playstation consumer claim
Sony is accused of overcharging 8.9m Playstation customers who may have overpaid for games or in-app purchases and be owed anywhere between £67 and £562 each in compensation. Sign up to stay updated on this claim if you are, or have been, a Sony Playstation customer in the last six years.
Our own consumer rights champion, Alex Neill, is waiting for court approval to act on behalf of affected Playstation customers. She said:
‘The game is up for Sony PlayStation. With this legal action I am standing up for the millions of UK people who have been unwittingly overcharged. We believe Sony has abused its position and ripped off its customers.’
Tips on getting your problems sorted
Contact the retailer first
- Your rights are with the company you bought the digital content from so start by getting in touch with its customer services team. Do this in writing if you can so you have a record and try to include screenshots to illustrate the problem.
- Explain the problem and be clear on whether you want a repair or replacement in the first instance. Be polite and stick to the facts. It helps to show you know your legal rights.
- If you don’t get what you want then file a formal complaint to the company and tell them you intend to leave a bad review for others to see.
Other ways of getting your money back
There are other ways you can solve your problem if speaking to the company doesn’t work or they ignore your complaint
- If you paid by debit card, you can ask for your money back using ‘chargeback’ which is a way for your card provider (including credit cards) to claim money from your retailer’s bank. You have 120 days from the transaction processing date and will need evidence that there has been a breach of contract.
- If you paid by credit card, you can ask for your money back using Section 75 of the Credit Card Act if you paid for all (or some) of the cost for digital content costing more than £100 but no more than £30,000. Speak to your credit card company to do this.
Escalating unresolved complaints
- You can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you unsuccessfully tried to get your money back using Section 75.
- You can also do this for an unsuccessful ‘chargeback’ claim if your bank won’t appeal to the retailer’s bank. If they have and the appeal fails then there is nothing else you can do.
- Some retailers are members of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme who will look at your complaint and help you come to an agreement with the retailer. The trader is required to give you the name of any approved ADR body in their sector, and tell you if they’re a member.
- As a last resort, you can take a seller to court to claim money you’re owed. This is known as taking someone to a ‘small claims court’ and it will cost you money and time. You have up to six years (or five years in Scotland) to make a claim this way.
Your rights when downloading ‘free’ digital content
Your rights aren’t the same when digital content is given away for free. However, you do have the same rights as with paid-for digital content if it causes damage due to negligence. So, for instance, if a free mobile phone app contains a virus that goes on to damage your phone.
Some digital content may be described as ‘free’ but comes with another purchase – for instance, you buy a computer that comes with ‘free’ antivirus software. In these instances, your rights are the same as they would be if you’d paid for it.
Get free advice from the consumer helpline
You can contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline if you need more help dealing with tricky companies.
Related claims where you could be owed compensation
Sign up to Consumer Voice if you’re a customer of Sony Playstation or you have an Apple or Android smartphone or tablet. We will keep you updated on the group consumer claims that could mean you’re owed money.
- Sony Playstation – sign up for updates if you own (or have owned) a PS4 of PS5 since August 2016
- Apple App Store – you could be owed compensation if you bought apps on your iPhone or iPad since 1 October 2015.
- Google Play Store – you could be eligible to claim money back if you have spent money on app or in-app content since 1 October 2015.