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Downloads 'not covered by same legal rights as physical purchases'

Consumer group says it's hard to get a refund

Brits buying digital copies of music, films or software don't have the same legal rights as though that buy physical copies, says Consumer Focus.

The consumer rights group revealed that those opting to download music or software from the web will find it particularly hard to obtain a refund if a digital copy was "not fit for purpose, defective, non-conforming to the advertised product description, or might cause damage or loss to users' software" as digital copies are not considered "tangible goods".

"Digital products delivered in the process of downloading or streaming are not considered to be 'tangible goods' and so are exempt from the statutory consumer's right to redress," the group said.

"As a result, consumers buying digital goods and services are exposed to risks where products are not fit for purpose or undelivered, and need to rely on the goodwill of retailers and content providers when seeking remedies."

Mystery shopper research by the group revealed that many online retailers don't provide minimum PC specifications required to run software.

"It meant that a third of mystery shoppers did not receive adequate information on a product to which they would have no rights to redress in case of non-functionality," Consumer Focus said.

Furthermore, more than a third of online retailers didn't say whether downloads were protected by digital right management (DRM) technology.

See also: 64% of Brits think CDs will be obsolete by 2015

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