Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 there are a strict set of rules that retailers and sellers must abide by. When you buy goods it means you've entered into a contract with the seller of these goods.
The Sale of Goods Act
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
Fit for purpose means both 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)
Goods sold must also match any sample you were shown in-store, or any description in a brochure.
Who is responsible
If your goods fail to meet any of the above criteria then you could 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 (HP).
Instead the Supply of Goods Implied Terms Act 1973 applies, which makes the HP company responsible for the quality of the goods supplied and gives you slightly different rights.
All goods must be:
- as described
- of satisfactory quality and
- fit for purpose
If they're not, the retailer is in breach of contract and you have a claim under the Sale of Goods Act
Returning faulty goods
If you buy a product that turns out to be faulty, you can choose to reject it which means you can give it back and get a refund.
But, 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 usually have no more than three to four weeks from when you receive it to reject it.
Getting 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 arises within six months of buying the product, 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, by showing that the problem was caused by an external factor such as accidental damage.
Beyond six months, 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.