As a nation of consumers, we should always have a basic knowledge of laws which govern the buying of goods and services in the UK, so we know when a breach occurs, and what can be done to put it right.
This article covers:
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended)
The Sale and The Supply of Goods Act 1994
The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002
The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
The Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973
The Consumer Contract Regulations, 2014
The Consumer Rights Act, 2015 (in force from – 1st October 2015)
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended), The Sale and The Supply of Goods Act 1994,
Goods and services must be as described, fit for the purpose they are intended, and to be of satisfactory quality.
The retailer (not the manufacturer), is responsible if the goods are not as described, not fit for the purpose intended, or are not of satisfactory quality.
If goods do not conform as described above, you can request a refund ‘within a reasonable time’. (Reasonable time will depend on the type of item purchased). For example, a pair of shoes may only be considered to last for six months, whereas a washing machine could be expected to last for at least 5 years.
You can demand damages from a trader or business if an item malfunctions, which is limited to six years after purchase of the item – however, this is not for normal wear and tear, (eg. a pair of trainers which have lost their grip after 2 years). The guarantee for any item purchased will be dependant upon what the law sees as ‘reasonable.
If as a consumer you have enjoyed ‘some benefit’ from the item before it became faulty; you could ask the retailer to either repair the item or offer a replacement. If the retailer finds either avenue too costly, they will usually offer you a partial refund.
You are ‘not’ entitled to a refund of any item that the retailer advised you before purchase, was faulty.
You do not need to accept a ‘credit’ note for a faulty item, as there maybe restrictions as to where you can spend it. You can demand that the retailer provides you with a cash or card refund, depending on what method you used to purchase the item in the first instance.
Although you have up to 6 years to make a claim for a full refund of faulty goods in England, you must be able to prove (after 6 months) that the initial problem was there at the start of purchase, and was not the result of normal wear and tear.
If you cannot prove after six months that the fault had been present at the point you purchased the item, then you may be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
The Act does ‘not’ offer redress for items purchased under a hire-purchase agreement. These type of items are covered by The Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973, and means that the goods supplied must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and must match the description. The procedure here is slightly different, and action will need to be taken against a credit provider and not the supplier. The Act allows for costs of repairs on the product by the credit provider, or a full refund, if this is not possible.
The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002
What about second-hand goods, or items sold by an individual?
It should be noted that the Sale of Goods Act 1979 covers all goods sold to you by traders or businesses. It does ‘not’ fully cover you for goods sold privately by individuals at a car boot sale or on websites such as Gumtree. The only redress you can obtain in these circumstances, is if the goods sold were not as described in the advertisement. However, you would normally approach the seller face-to-face, and buy the item from them ‘sold as seen’, so there will not usually be a claim which can be sought on this basis. For this type of transaction, there is a statement in law we should all be aware of – “Caveat Emptor,” or “Let the Buyer Beware” (as there will be no compensation claim thereafter).
“Whenever you’re successful you owe that success to the people in the community, because they are the ones buying your product.”
Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
This Act covers Services supplied in the UK, which do or do not provide goods alongside. For example, services supplied ‘with’ goods maybe fitted kitchens or car repairs. Goods ‘without services’ maybe work carried out by an estate agent or a ticket to the cinema.
All work, with or without goods supplied must be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within reasonable time limits, and for a reasonable charge.
To deem “what is reasonable,” you should could contact relevant Trade Bodies; request other traders to provide you with the length of time and fees they would charge for the same job, and/or determine whether the service has been carried out to as described in the contract you signed up to.
If a shoddy piece of workmanship is found, and is not within of the trader’s ‘Guarantee Period’, this does not mean that you are any less entitled to the relevant repairs, or a request for compensation.
If you find that the trader is in breach, you could demand a full refund of the money paid to date; or if you have enjoyed some benefit from the service supplied, you could request a partial refund.
If you find that a trader goes beyond a reasonable time to complete a job, (whether under a contract term or not), you could either ‘pay under protest’ if you are sorting legal action against the trader (write ‘Payment Under Protest’ on all letter headings when paying by cheque); or alternatively, you can with-hold part of the payment if you are not entirely satisfied with the work carried out.
To save hassle when contacting traders to carry out work, eg. a builder; firstly make sure they are registered to an appropriate Trade Body, and secondly, draw up a payment schedule in parts for larger jobs. (For example, if hiring a building firm to build your home, pay them firstly for laying the foundations to a reasonable standard, secondly for brickwork, etc.)
And remember, in any dispute, it is always advisable to gather evidence by way of photographs, letters, and contractual documentation, to prove you case.
The Consumer Contract Regulations, 2014
The Distance Selling Regulations of 2002 were replaced by The Consumer Contract Regulations, 2014, as such has been combined with The Consumer Rights Directive, and offers further protection in UK law.
There are three main facts covered by the Consumer Contract Regulations, and these are:
(i) You can cancel online goods and services up to 14 days after purchase and obtain a full refund (including basic delivery costs); or you can obtain a refund from a trader of goods, within 14 days from returning the goods to them.
(ii) You can cancel a service for up to 14 days after you enter into a contract however, if the service started straight away eg. gym membership, you may be required to pay for the days you had the membership for, up until the point of cancellation.
(iii) Hidden charges cannot be made by traders
The Regulations make it pretty clear that the trader is responsible for the condition of the goods, until it is received by the buyer.
The trader must provide you with the goods, within 30 days of purchase.
What type of services or goods ‘may not’ be cancelled under The Consumer Contract Regulations, 2014?
(i) car hire
(ii) concert tickets
(iii) flight tickets
(iv) hotel bookings
(v) contracts made under ‘urgent repairs’
The Regulations also state that traders of goods or services (including services such as gas and electricity), cannot provide their customers with premium rate numbers to call for assistance – they should always maintain a ‘basic rate’ telephone number.
With regard to services bought digitally online, such as a digital music downloads, you will either need to wait for 14 days to receive the download after purchase, or if you have expressed the need for the download to begin straight away, you will also waiver your right to the 14 day cancellation option.
The Consumer Rights Act, 2015
This new Act, which has been implemented on 1st October 2015, provides consumers with one law which is easier to understand, than a variety of consumer laws. It seeks to complement the current European Consumer Rights Directive.
The key developments of this Act are as follows:
Contracts between consumers and businesses will have wording which is much easier to understand; for example, that goods supplied will be exactly the same as the model seen by the consumer before purchase, and if not, then this information was brought to the consumer’s attention before purchase.
Pre-contractual information will become an implied term of a contract between a consumer and retailer, such as payment and delivery arrangement and timings. If these terms are not adhered to by the retailer, they will be found ‘in-breach’ and consumers will be able to claim for any costs they have incurred as a result.
If goods are faulty, of shoddy quality, or not as described; consumers will now have 30 days to reject these goods for replacement or a refund. This will now be called “The Right to Reject.” (For perishable goods, the “Right to Reject” will be much shorter).
If goods are faulty, of shoddy quality, or not as described; consumers will have the right to request a replacement or repair of the goods, even after the initial 30 day “Right to Reject” policy. If after a repair, the goods are still of unsatisfactory quality, then a final “Right to Reject” can be initiated by the consumer, requesting that a partial refund is offered for the repaired item, or that a full refund is provided.
If a trader has been asked to install goods through his or her services (eg. double glazing), and the installation was ‘poorly’ carried out, the goods will be deemed as “Not Conforming to Contract.” In this case, the consumer can request the trader to undertake the service again to ‘put it right,’ or may request a reduction in price, if the workmanship is ‘liveable’.
For services sold to a consumer, if anything is written or said by the trader either before or after the contract is made, and this information influences the decision of the consumer about the service; this will be deemed as an implied term of the contract.
Digital content has been a rather grey area for previous Consumer Law however, The Consumer Rights Act, 2015 seeks to address these issues as follows:
All digital content must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose. If not, consumer remedies would be a replacement, repair, or reduction in price.
If digital content supplied by a trader is corrupted and destroys or damages a consumer’s electronic device or digital content, the trader will be found liable, (as long as the consumer can prove that the digital content supplied was corrupt when sent). The trader will either be required to repair the damage caused, or offer a reasonable sum of compensation.
“Obviously we’re a consumer nation and you have the power to influence these big corporations who are running the world right now through what you chose to, or not to, purchase.”