If a product you’ve bought develops a fault, you have the right to a refund, repair or replacement depending on the length of time you’ve owned the product.
What is a faulty good?
Under the Consumer Rights Act all products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
The rules also include digital content in this definition. So all products - whether physical or digital - must meet the following standards:
- Satisfactory quality Goods shouldn't be faulty or damaged when you receive them. You should ask what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory for the goods in question? For example, bargain bucket products won’t be held to as high standards as luxury goods.
- Fit for purpose The goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.
- As described The goods supplied must match any description given to you, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.
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When did you purchase the goods?
The date you made the purchase determines which legislation applies.
- If you purchased your goods from 1 October 2015 then the Consumer Rights Act applies.
- If you purchased your goods on or before 30 September 2015 then the Sale of Goods Act will apply.
Act fast to return faulty goods
Under the Consumer Rights Act you have an early right to reject goods that are unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described and get a full refund.
But this right is limited to 30 days from the date of purchase of your product. And this right doesn’t apply to faulty digital content.After the initial 30 days, you can't demand a full refund in the first instance but you still have the right to a repair or replacement.
- You have the right to reject your item and get a refund within 30 days of purchase.
- You could also ask the retailer to repair or replace your item within six months of purchase.
- Your rights against the retailer can last for up to six years but the onus is on you to prove a fault was present at the time of purchase after the first six months.
- You can also use your guarantee or warranty if your product develops a fault.
Bought after 1 October 2015
If you are outside the 30-day right to reject, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital content which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.
You can choose whether you want the goods to be repaired or replaced.
But the retailer can refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared to the alternative.
If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.
Was a fault present at purchase?
In a recent survey Which? found that only 13% of people knew that six months after purchasing a product the onus is on you to prove a fault was present at the time of purchase in order to claim a refund, repair or replacement.
When we asked people how they would prove a fault was present at the time of purchase, 68% said they wouldn’t know how to do this.
The truth is, the law doesn't explain how you can prove a fault was present at the time of purchase which can make it problematic when you’re asked to do so.
Guidance has tended to focus on getting an independent report from a repair shop or expert but this advice dates back to a time when these were a common presence on high streets.
You could be hard pressed to find one now. But it is worth looking in your local area for a local repair shop if you need to get an objective opinion.
Here are a few suggestions on what you can do:
- If you can find a repair shop or expert to undertake an independent report, it’s worth doing so as long as the cost isn’t disproportionate to the value of the product. It’s also worth checking that the retailer is happy with your choice of independent expert.
- Are people on social media complaining of the same fault? What about any reviewers or journalists? The more evidence you can collect about the fault and how widespread it is, the stronger your case will be.
- If the retailer fobs you off and tells you there's nothing they can do, you could consider referring your case to the Consumer Ombudsman.
Can I get a full refund?
If you've owned the item for less than six months the retailer must give you a full refund.
The only exception to this is motor vehicles, where a deduction can be made for fair use after the first 30 days.
Bought before 1 October 2015
If something is not of satisfactory quality, you have a legal right under the Sale of Goods Act to a refund or to have it replaced or repaired for free.
You can ask the retailer to do either but it can normally choose to do whichever would be cheapest.
If the retailer refuses to repair the faulty goods, you may have the right to arrange for someone else to repair them and claim compensation from the retailer for the cost of doing this.
If the retailer refuses to provide any remedy, such as replacing the item, you are entitled to a full refund within the first 6 months or you can keep the item and get a reduction on the price you paid.
Your rights if an item is faulty
It doesn't matter whether you bought your goods before or after 1 October 2015 - in the first six months from when you buy something, the onus is on the seller to prove it was of satisfactory quality when you received it.
It's not for you to prove that the item was not of satisfactory quality in order to get it repaired or replaced during the first six months after purchase.
If the retailer refuses to help
If you're having problems and the shop won't refund or repair or replace your goods, then it should be reported to your local Trading Standards department as the retailer is breaching your statutory rights.
It's worth telling the shop that you're going to do this as this could mean your complaint is then dealt with.
If the retailer fobs you off or blames the manufacturer, you might want to take your complaint to the Consumer Ombudsman.
You might also want to consider using your guarantee or warranty.
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Using guarantees and warranties
Many products, such as electrical goods, are sold with a manufacturer's guarantee (or warranty), often for a year.
Guarantees are a contract between you and the manufacturer and the manufacturer must do whatever it says it will do in the guarantee.
Usually this will be to repair or replace a faulty item. Retailers will sometimes contact the manufacturer on your behalf but they are not obliged to do so.
However, you still have rights under the Consumer Rights Act or Sale of Goods Act even if your guarantee has expired. A manufacturer's guarantee doesn't replace these rights and retailers can't ignore this.
It will depend on the product and the fault but you could be legally entitled to a free repair or, in some cases, a replacement by the retailer for some time after the manufacturer's guarantee has expired.
If death, damage or injury is caused
According to the Consumer Protection Act 1987, anyone who’s harmed by an unsafe product can sue the manufacturer - even if you didn’t buy the product yourself.
You can sue for compensation for death or injury. You can also sue for damage or loss of private property caused by faulty goods if the damage amounts to at least £275.
The amount that can be claimed will depend on the harm suffered and there is no upper limit to compensation.
There are also certain criminal sanctions that apply to the general safety of products. For example, a lack of safety information can lead to up to 12 months’ imprisonment and a large fine.
Consumer Protection Act
The first claim under the Consumer Protection Act was not brought to court until 2000. That’s 12 years after the Act came into force.
Since then there have been very few court cases as it seems most claims are settled out of court.
malcolm r says:
<p>Whenever product reliability crops up in Convos I bang on about using the Sale of Goods Act (now the Consumer Rights Act) with the retailer if you have a genuine case that is not satisfactorily...
harry ure says:
<p>Bought an electric shower from well known company, from installation it doesnt heat water. contacted manufacturer re problem, they say it may cost £82 for engineer to call. I may be cheaper...
malcolm r says:
<p><a href='https://conversation.which.co.uk/members/afrench/' rel="nofollow">@afrench</a>, Hello Adam. Does Which? have anything to say on the views being expressed particularly by wavechange...