Sale of Goods Act

The Sale of Goods Act no longer applies in UK law. This has been replaced by the Consumer Rights Act and gives you rights to a refund, repair or replacement if something you buy develops a fault.
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Take note

The Sale of Goods Act has been replaced by the Consumer Rights Act. This came into force on 1 October 2015.

The Consumer Rights Act has made some changes to your rights to return faulty goods and get a refund, replacement or repair and gives you new rights when you buy digital content. 

For guidance in relation to contracts entered into on or after 1 October 2015, please see our page on the Consumer Rights Act. 

This page provides guidance in respect of historic contracts which were entered into on or before 30 September 2015.

The Sale of Goods Act

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 requires goods to be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.

Fit for purpose means both for their everyday purpose, and also any specific purpose that you agreed with the seller (for example, if you specifically asked for a printer that would be compatible with your computer, or wall tiles that would be suitable for use in a bathroom). 

Goods sold must also match any sample you were shown in-store, or any description in a brochure.

The only exceptions to the requirements of satisfactory quality are if a defect or issue was specifically drawn to  your attention before the contract was made.

So, if you examined the goods and had the opportunity to notice (but failed to do so) that the goods were not of satisfactory quality; or, in the case of sale by sample, if the lack of quality would have been obvious on a reasonable examination of the sample, you would not be able to argue that the goods were not of satisfactory quality.

If you have bought a faulty product, our guide shows you what you should do. 

Summary

The Sale of Goods Act requires all goods to be:

  • as described
  • of satisfactory quality and
  • fit for purpose

If they're not, the retailer is in breach of contract, giving rise to a claim under the Sale of Goods Act

Who is responsible

If you purchased goods on or before 30 September 2015, and  your goods fail to meet any of the above criteria, then you may have a claim under the Sale of Goods Act.

If you want to make a claim under the Sale of Goods Act you have several possible ways of resolving your issue, depending on the circumstances and on what you want done.

Your rights are against the retailer (the company that sold you the product) not the manufacturer, and so you must make any claim against the retailer.

However, the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t apply to goods you've bought on hire purchase.

Instead the Supply of Goods Implied Terms Act 1973 applies, which makes the hire purchase company responsible for the quality of the goods supplied and gives you slightly different rights.

Top tip

To get a refund on a faulty item in respect of any item purchase on or before 30 September 2015, you need to reject it and return it within a reasonable time after purchase. What is a 'reasonable time' will depend on the specific circumstances, but three to four weeks is likely to be a good benchmark. 

Returning faulty goods

If you received faulty goods under a contract entered into on or before 30 September 2015, you can choose to reject the goods which means you can give them back and get a refund.

You should note that the law only gives you a reasonable time to do this – what's reasonable depends on the product and how obvious the fault is.

However, even with major purchases or complex items, it’s safest to work on the basis you would usually have no more than three to four weeks from when you receive the goods to reject them.

Faulty goods replaced or repaired

You have the right to get faulty goods replaced or repaired if it's too late to reject them. You can ask the retailer to do either, but they can normally choose to do whatever would be cheapest.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, the retailer must either repair or replace faulty goods 'within a reasonable time but without causing significant inconvenience'.

If the seller doesn't do this, you're entitled to claim either:

• a reduction on the purchase price, or
• your money back, minus an amount for the usage you've had of the goods (called recision)

If the retailer refuses to repair the goods, and they won't replace them either, you may have the right to arrange for someone else to repair your item, and then claim compensation from the retailer for the cost of doing this.

You have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; in Scotland you have five years.

Proving your claim for faulty goods

If your claim under the Sale of Goods Act ends up in court, you may have to prove that the fault was present when you bought the item and not, for example, something which was the result of normal wear and tear.

If your claim is about a problem that arose within six months of buying the product, it's assumed that the problem existed at the date of delivery and it's up to the retailer to prove that the goods were of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, or as described when it sold them.

For example, a retailer might try to prove this by showing that the problem was caused by an external factor such as accidental damage.

To get a faulty good repaired or replaced, follow our step-by-step guide

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Expert's reports

After six months from when you received the goods, it's up to you to prove that the problem was there when you received the goods even if it has taken until now to come to light.

So, you may need to prove that the fault was not down to ordinary wear and tear or damage you caused, and that the product (or a component) should have lasted longer than it did.

To do this you may need an expert's report, for example, from an engineer or a mechanic.

Always try to keep the cost of any report proportionate to the value of the claim and, if you can, try to agree on an expert you and the seller both agree has the necessary expertise.

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