Most people are either for or against the government’s decision to insist that supermarkets charge for plastic carrier bags, few sit on the fence.
It has been a success story, lightweight, strong(ish) cheap and easy to use, the bags hit the mark; it’s just the way we throw them away that creates the issues. As consumers, we stuff carrier bags into cupboards, discard them or dispose them into landfill.
Unlike plastic windows (PVCu, which can be recycled into new plastic components) a plastic carrier bag can’t be recycled or you have to collect millions of bags to make one new one!
Not being a natural tree hugger, I can appreciate some people have differing opinions of materials for carrier bags. Sure, hessian or cotton bags carry more weight and can be used time and time again, however the same can be said for thicker plastic carrier bags, just not the thin ones.
However this blog post is all about how you can use the new Consumer Rights to get your 5p back.
On October 1st, the new consumer rights came into force, they give everyone a degree of clarity about their “rights”.
Let’s take online shopping first.
You order your groceries; agree the time slot and driver arrives. They offload the reusable plastic boxes and inside have plastic bags, which you didn’t order but may have been forced upon you.
Under the new consumer rights, anything of a standard nature (not bespoke or purpose made) that you have purchased online; you have 14 calendar days to change your mind about the goods purchased (because you hadn’t had a chance to see them before you bought them) for a FULL REFUND.
The supermarket or retailer can make a reasonable charge to cover the return shipping costs (if their T&C’s explain) but I suggest you empty the bags immediately and return them to the driver, insisting they refund you. Alternatively, you return them to the store and request a refund within the 14 days.
Each of the major supermarkets have different policies regarding the use of plastic bags for home delivery. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda offer free bagless delivery. If you’d like your groceries packed in carrier bags, you will need to pay a flat fee of 40p. Ocado offer a 5p refund for every plastic bag you return to the driver up to a maximum of 99 bags.
Now let’s take in-store shopping.
You shop for your groceries; agree to buy bags (that you can see and inspect) and agree to spend 5p on each of them. You load your shopping and take everything home.
Under the new consumer rights, you do not have any right to refuse the bags, as you had the chance to decide about your purchase in the supermarket.
New return rights for FAULTY goods
HOWEVER, you do have rights if any of the carrier bags are FAULTY; the handle split, there was a hole in it or if there was any kind of FAULT. This right to a FULL REFUND applies ONLY if the goods are FAULTY but it doesn’t matter if they were bought in the store or online shopping.
If your bags are FAULTY, you have a right to reject them during the first 30 days and get a FULL REFUND, because they must have been FAULTY from the start. Even during the next 5 months, FAULTS were deemed to have been in the bags from the time you bought them, so you can have replacements or a repair or accept part refund providing you return them to the retailer.
Even after the first 6 months you have a right to obtain a replacement but you’ll need to prove the faulty was there at the time of purchase.
This feels like a tax on shoppers because the government has insisted that consumers must pay this 5p charge, that’s millions of pounds over the next year. Is this fair? Have other EU countries levied this charge on their citizens or just the UK government?
Wales have been charging 5p for each carrier bag used at supermarkets since 2011, Ireland have been charging €0.22 per bag since 2002 and Denmark have taxed retailers for giving out plastic bags since 2003.
Finally there is one exception to the new rules, perishables like bananas, which don’t have a shelf life of 14 or 30 days are exempt (understandably) and the powers that make the rules may decide plastic carriers are exempt because they too are perishable…but that just weakens the new consumer rights.
What do you think of the new charge on plastic carrier bags? Let us know in the comments.