Written by: Cally Worden
Imagine buying something you’ve had your heart set on for a while, something you’ve saved hard for. Feels good, right? But when you get home and open it up you find it’s faulty in some way. Disappointed, you return to the shop for a refund or perhaps and exchange, but your complaint falls on deaf ears and the manager is refusing to budge. In this scenario (and many others) knowing your consumer rights can help you argue your case effectively to get the result you deserve. Here’s what you need to know.
When you buy anything, you are entering into a contract with the provider and they have an obligation to provide your statutory rights (basically, to comply with the law). There are laws and statutes that lay out very clearly the rights of consumers in respect of goods and services purchased. For goods in particular the main bits you need to remember are that:
- They must be of satisfactory quality
- They must be as described
- They should be fit for their intended purpose
- They should last a reasonable length of time
These basic conditions apply to any goods sold, irrespective of whether they are acquired in a sale or with the use of vouchers.
The law you need to quote in the face of a challenging store manager is the Sale of Goods Act 1979. This is how that plays out:
- Satisfactory quality – somewhat subjective, but essentially this means the quality you could reasonably expect for the condition and price of the item you are buying. When arguing this point it’s vital to remain calm and, er, reasonable
- As described – if a jumper is sold as ‘cashmere’, then it should be made from that material. A multi-region DVD player should play international DVDs, a blue jumper should indeed by blue, and so on
- Fit for Purpose – the item must perform the task for which it was sold. So a bike must roll, and have brakes and gears that work, for example, and if a vendor has sold your something they say will work for your needs, you have the right to challenge them if they were wrong (the wrong sized bulb for your lamp, etc)
- Last for a reasonable length of time – again, this is subjective, but at an extreme level you would expect a TV to work for a good few years before becoming faulty, so if it breaks in the first few days you definitely have a good argument for replacement or refund
Interestingly, these same criteria apply to second-hand goods sold, except where any known faults were pointed out to you at the point of purchase. When buying from a private seller your rights are less robust, as the seller only has to describe the item correctly and have the right to sell it.
Also, be aware, that retailers have an obligation to respond to you and cannot legally fob you off by saying you have to take up any issue directly with the manufacturer.
For faulty goods returned within 6 months of purchase the shop has to prove the items weren’t faulty when you bought them. Beyond 6 months that burden of proof falls to you. You actually have up to 6 years after purchase to make a complaint about any faulty item you buy (in Scotland this is 5 years from the date you first realised there was a problem).
Many stores offer wider protection than the standard laws, with some even offering full refunds on non-faulty goods within a limited period of time. Check the policy in each store to be clear on these extended rights.