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Consumer rights

What to do if you buy a faulty product

09 December 2008. The main legislation covering your rights as a consumer is Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended By The Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002)

The Act states that you are entitled to expect that any goods you buy from a trader are of satisfactory quality, fit for any particular purpose made known to the seller at the time of purchase and are correctly described by the seller.

Your rights under this Act are against the person who sold you the goods and not the manufacturer unless you buy directly from him. Remember that you do not have any grounds for complaint if you were told about the defect beforehand, if you examined the item when you bought it and should have seen the defect, bought the item knowing it was not fit for the purpose you wanted it for or if you damaged the goods yourself, made a mistake when buying them or if you simply changed your mind.

Many shops will help you out of goodwill if you have a proof of purchase but they are not legally obliged to do so.

What is meant by satisfactory quality?

Goods of satisfactory quality are goods which an ordinary reasonable person would regard as satisfactory taking into account description of the goods, the price of the goods and other relevant circumstances. The goods should be free from any defects unless the defect has been pointed out to you by the seller or the goods were advertised as defective i.e. factory rejects. They should also have satisfactory appearance and be safe and durable.

What does fit for purpose mean?

It simply meant fit to do a job intended for them. This includes any particular purpose mentioned by you to the seller at the time of purchase for example if you asked the seller for a pair of headphones to be used with Sony radio he must not give you a pair that cannot be used on this particular machine.
The goods should also be fit for all purposes for which goods of that kind are commonly supplied.

What does the requirement that the goods must be correctly described mean?

The goods purchased must be the same as described on the package, a sign in the shop or as advertised by the seller. For example if you are buying a shirt which is described as 100% cotton then it should not turn out to have been made of some other material. If you buy goods based on the sample they must match the sample.

So what should I do if the goods turn out to be faulty?

The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 state that if a product that was faulty at the time of sale is returned to the retailer, you can ask for a full refund, a reasonable amount of compensation or a repair or replacement.

When am I entitled to a refund?

You can claim your money back if the goods you have purchased were faulty or they were of unsatisfactory quality, not fit for the purpose or are not as described. You should tell the seller as soon as possible because you will be deemed to have accepted the goods if you have kept them beyond a reasonable time without communicating to the seller your intention to reject. You must be able to prove that the fault was present when the goods were sold. The burden of proof rests with you the consumer.

What if I used the goods for some time before discovering the defect. Can I still get a refund?

Yes you could still be entitled to a refund. However, if you have had some use from the goods, the seller may make a reduction from the original price when refunding the money.

You may also have to accept an offer to put the goods right or the cost of a repair. If the fault cannot be repaired or the costs of repairs are unreasonable you may be able to claim compensation but you would have to keep this claim to a reasonable minimum

You could also be entitled to a refund if you have not had a reasonable opportunity to check the goods at the time of purchase and you complain later.

Can I have my goods repaired or replaced?

Since 31st March 2003, the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations gives you a right to ask for replacement or repair instead of refund. Goods which do not conform to the contract within the six months after they were delivered are presumed to have been faulty when you got them.
Moreover you do not have to prove the fault was present when the goods were sold. Instead, the trader must prove that the fault was not present when the goods were sold. In this case the burden of proof is on the trader.

The repair should be carried out within reasonable amount of time. If a repair or replacement is not available or is unsuitable, you could then ask for a refund.

REMEMBER: You are only entitled to full refund if you return the goods soon after purchase. If not you are entitled to following remedies in the order given (depending on their suitability and your circumstances): repair, replacement, price reduction and partial refund taking into account the time you have enjoyed the goods.

When can I reject faulty goods?

You can reject faulty goods if soon after the purchase you tell the seller that the goods are faulty and you do not want them. You should then be able to get your money back. You cannot reject faulty goods if you are deemed to have legally accepted them.

You can accept the goods by for example keeping them after you had a reasonable time to examine them and see that they are faulty and without informing the seller that you want to return them.

The reasonable time is not fixed and depends on the circumstances. You should therefore inform the seller as soon as possible that you wish to reject the goods. Remember that in most circumstances you will still have a right to reject the goods even after you have signed an acceptance note for them.

Do I have the same rights if I purchased goods at a sale?

YES. You have the same rights when you buy goods in a sale as at any other time. The seller cannot say there are no refunds on sale goods.

What happens if I lose the receipt?

Your rights will still apply but you must remember that a receipt is an important evidence of when and where you bought the goods. You may have to provide an alternative proof of purchase such as bank statement. Even a word of the seller who sold the goods to you is enough as a proof.

What if I receive a present which proves to be faulty?

In this case you may have to ask the person who bought them for you to give you a proof of purchase or to complain for you.

Do I have to send back faulty goods to the seller at my own expense?

No. You are not legally obliged to return such goods at your own expense unless you agreed to do so with the seller beforehand. If the item is expensive to return ask the seller to collect it.
This right does not apply if you only complain about goods long time after "legally accepting" them or if the goods were a present and the person purchasing the item told the seller that it is intended to be a gift.

What happens if I am injured by the goods provided by the seller?

The seller is committing an offence if he supplies you with goods which are not safe. It does not matter whether the goods are new or second-hand. The rules do not apply to antiques and to goods needing repair or reconditioning if you were clearly informed of this fact before the purchase.

If new goods prove to be defective you could make a legal claim against the manufacturer. If you suffered injuries as a result of using unsafe goods provided you should contact a personal injury solicitor.

By Simpson Millar LLP
Tel: 0844 858 3200

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