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Consumer Rights - Returning Faulty Goods


We hope you won't have to use this section but it will prove very useful if you do!

Rights:  When you buy something from a retailer you have rights under the Sale of Goods Act often referred to as your statutory rights. The law states that when you buy goods, they must meet the description given, be fit for purpose and be of satisfactory quality. In practice this means that not only must it do what it is supposed to do but it must also be in good condition, free of faults, safe, and must last a reasonable length of time.

The definition of a 'reasonable time' varies from product to product but you can make a claim on anything up to six years after you've purchased it (except in Scotland, where the limit is five years). And crucially if you do have a claim it is the retailer - not necessarily the manufacturer - who is liable.

To make a claim any breakdown has to be the result of a defect that was present at the time of purchase even if you weren't previously aware of it. So if an electronics product has defective soldering when you buy it you may not realise this until it causes a problem later on but you should still be able to make a claim because the product wasn't of satisfactory quality.

Problems:  Because of the implicit ambiguities you wouldn't expect retailers automatically to offer to fix any product for free. However you might expect them to admit that they may be responsible for repairing the fault for free. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. A recent Which? survey found that barely more than 10% of shops responded to an out of guarantee claim by acknowledging that a free repair might be possible under appropriate circumstances!

Claiming:  If you think you have a claim, be persistent. Don't expect help from the shop where you bought the goods.  Follow this advice from Which?

Contact head office:  Save yourself some grey hairs by contacting the head office first. Be firm, explain that you think your product hasn't lasted a reasonable amount of time and say that you'd like it investigated and repaired or replaced if it turns out to be faulty.

The evidence:  If the goods are less than six months old, it's up to the retailer to prove that the fault wasn't present at the time of purchase. For anything older the seller is entitled to ask you to provide evidence of the fault. This isn't difficult you just need to contact an independent repairer and ask them to produce a report. It shouldn't be too expensive and if you have a successful case you should be able to claim back up to 200 from the retailer in the small claims court.

The repair:  Once you know that the problem is caused by a manufacturing fault ask the retailer to repair or replace your appliance. If the cost of doing this is disproportionate the retailer can offer a refund instead.  This might not be a full refund depending on how much you've used the product. If you don't want to wait for the retailer to assess your claim you can pay someone else to fix the item. As long as they provide evidence of a manufacturing fault you'll be able to claim the cost of repair from the retailer.

If all else fails:  If you have a claim that the retailer won't settle, you can take them to the small claims court. The judge can order the retailer to settle the claim and pay legal costs. 

Hopefully, things will never get that far. But, until shops sort their act out you might have to force them to respect your statutory rights - because you'll probably know more about the subject than they do.


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