Written by: Cally Worden
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 provides many protections for buyers. One of its key provisions is that which states that if there is something wrong with goods you have bought you can ask the vendor to repair or replace them, free of any charge to you. As with all such laws there are always exceptions, but the provision can be particularly useful if you are unable to secure a refund and would still want the goods anyway. Here are some things you need to understand in respect of your rights.
It’s All in the Timing
If you purchased the faulty or damaged goods within the last 6 months, many sellers will accept that they were not right at the point of sale and will simply offer to repair or replace the items for you. This obviously does not apply to certain products which you may reasonably have been expected to use within the given period and which may be subject to wear and tear. However, it would for example apply to a kitchen gadget that you bought in a sale and then kept in a cupboard to give as a gift at Christmas several months later. If the seller plays hardball and refuses to accept there was a problem with the goods at the time they were purchased you will have to prove this yourself.
Beyond the six month period you can still ask for the goods to be replaced or repaired at any point up to six years after the date of purchase, provided it’s reasonable to expect them to have lasted for that length of time. However, the burden of proof that the goods were not right at the point you purchased them remains with you. After six years you have no right to ask for a repair or replacement.
When the Seller Can Refuse
There are certain circumstances under which a vendor can refuse a request for repair or replacement within the six year period. These include:
- When the fault is due to normal wear and tear
- When the goods have already exceeded their natural life expectancy
- Where it would cost ‘too much’ to repair or replace the items – this is open to interpretation
- Where the goods were purchased directly from a private seller
- Where the goods were purchased as part of a business-business transaction
When a seller accepts responsibility but is unable to offer to repair or replace faulty goods they should offer a partial refund (making an allowance for the use you’ve already enjoyed), or let you keep the item and give you some money back as a reduction in price to compensate for the fault. If however, these options are impractical because the fault renders the item useless, you can still insist on a repair or replacement, or a full refund, or contribution to the cost of the repair elsewhere.
Calculating Price Reduction
If the seller offers you a partial refund the amount must be based upon the following criteria:
- How much the goods would be worth if perfect
- How long they have been in your possession and the current market value if different from that which you paid
- The impact on you because the goods are faulty
- How difficult it would be for you to find an alternative product from another seller
Clearly some of these criteria are also subjective and the seller should be open to some discussion as a result.
Can you Turn Down an Offer?
If your vendor offers you a reasonable repair/replace solution but you are still not happy you may be able to reject it on the following grounds:
- You purchased the items very recently and are entitled to a full refund
- The time take for the repair or replacement will take too long, leaving you greatly inconvenienced – the seller may, however, offer you a suitable alternative to tide you over, which you would normally be expected to accept
- The goods cannot be replaced or repaired – possibly because they are unique, highly unusual, or simply not made any longer
How to Return the Goods
If practical you could return the items in person, but you are not obliged to do so. You are advised to take a photo before returning them in any event, and it may be that photographic evidence of the problem is enough for the vendor to make a decision. If the items must be returned, you could invite the vendor to visit your home to inspect and/or collect them, or offer to post them back, specifying that this is at the vendor’s expense and risk.
If, after the best efforts of all concerned you remain unsatisfied, make a formal complaint in writing.