The Sale of Goods Act 1979 states that all goods purchased or sold in the UK must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose they were manufactured for.
The Sale of Goods Act was replaced by the Consumer Rights Act in October 2015. The Consumer Rights Act also replaced the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.
However, for items purchased before 30 September 2015 that later were found to be faulty, you may need to consider your rights under the Sale of Goods Act.
Claiming under the Sale of Goods Act
Any claim you make under the Sale of Goods Act for a faulty item will be against the retailer, rather than the manufacturer. There are 3 ways your claim can be remedied:
If you bought an item on or before 30 September 2015 that subsequently was found to be faulty, you have the right to return the item and receive a refund.
This is with the proviso that you return the item within a ‘reasonable time’, depending on how obvious the fault is.
Generally, a ‘reasonable time’ would be 3 to 4 weeks from receipt of the item so this option is unlikely to be available to you if the time period is a matter of years rather than weeks.
- Replace or Repair
Where the ‘reasonable time’ has passed, you have the right for your faulty item to be replaced or repaired. Generally, you can’t choose which of these options the retailer opts for but you can state your preference.
The replacement or repair must be carried out by the retailer within a ‘reasonable time’ and cause as little inconvenience as possible to you.
Where this doesn’t happen, you may make a claim for the purchase price to be reduced or for your money to be refunded minus ‘recision’ – a monetary amount for the use you’ve already had from the item.
Where the retailer will not replace or repair the faulty item, you may have the right to arrange for the item to be repaired and then make a compensation claim against the retailer for the repair costs.
The claim must be within 6 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within 5 years in Scotland.
What isn’t covered under the Sale of Goods Act?
Items bought on hire purchase are not covered by the Sale of Goods Act. Instead, the Supply of Goods Implied Terms Act 1973 comes into force.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 replaced the Sale of Goods Act, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act to simplify and modernise consumer legislation.
The conditions for product quality under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 are the same as the Sale of Goods Act. All products must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
Similarly, any claim you make is against the retailer, not the manufacturer.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does however specifically include digital content as well as services and physical goods.
From the date you take ownership of your product, you have 30 days to reject it for not meeting one of the above conditions and to receive a full refund. After the 30 days, you lose your legal right to a full refund if your item is found to be faulty.
For perishable goods, such as milk or vegetables, for instance, the 30-day period is reduced depending on the shelf-life of the goods.
- Repair or Replace
Once the 30 days have passed, you may contact the retailer about an item purchased from them that did not meet the above conditions and request that they repair or replace it. The retailer will decide whether they choose to repair the item or replace it instead, but you may state your preference of the two options.
If this is unsuccessful, then you may claim a refund or a reduction in the purchase price if you would like to retain the item.
Eligibility for a part or full refund is dependent on at least one of the following factors being in place:
- It would cost more to a make repair or replacement than the item is worth.
- It is not possible to repair the item or replace it.
- Making a repair or replacement would cause the purchaser considerable inconvenience.
- The amount of time it would take to repair the item is unreasonably long.
You have a right to receive a refund if one of the following apply:
- a repair or replacement is not possible
- an attempted repair fails
- the first replacement is faulty
Where you still want the item to be repaired or replaced rather than receiving a refund, you have the right to ask the retailer to make further efforts to this effect.
- When did you discover the fault?
Where responsibility lies to prove the item was faulty when purchased depends on when the fault was discovered.
If the purchaser finds the fault within the first 6 months of ownership, it is automatically assumed that the item was faulty at the point of sale.
Should the retailer query this, the onus is on them to prove that the item was sound when purchased.
If an attempt is made by the retailer to replace or repair the item and this attempt fails, you have the right to reject the item and receive a full refund, or a price reduction if you would like to retain the item. The retailer cannot make any deductions from your refund in this situation.
In the case of motor vehicles, however, the retailer may make a reduction to the refund to account for any use you have had of the vehicle after the initial 30-day period.
If the fault developed after the first 6 months, the responsibility to prove the item was faulty when bought falls on the purchaser.
You should gather supporting evidence, possibly including expert advice.
- Digital content
Under the Consumer Rights Act, digital content is, ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form’. This could be a computer game, a film, computer software or a mobile phone app, for example.
Where digital content was downloaded, the right to reject the item within the first 30 days of ownership and receive a refund doesn’t apply.
You may ask the retailer to repair or replace a faulty item, however. If this doesn’t happen, or an attempt to repair or replace is unsuccessful, you have the right to a price reduction.
Where any device or other digital content is damaged because of the faulty digital content, you have a right to claim compensation from the retailer.
Until your purchase is delivered into your possession, the retailer is responsible for it. Should the item be damaged while in transit or not delivered at all, the delivery service bears no responsibility. The retailer is wholly liable.
Unless otherwise agreed, a retailer must deliver your purchase to you within 30 days. Where it was essential that you received the item by a particular date and this fails to happen, you have the right to cancel your order and obtain a full refund. You are also within your rights to cancel the order and be paid a full refund where delivery doesn’t happen within the 30 days and a further ‘reasonable’ delivery date cannot be arranged.
Supply of a service
Where your purchase is a service, for instance, fitting a kitchen, the service contract is covered by the Consumer Rights Act.
Any service provider must:
- carry out the service with ‘reasonable care and skill’
- be bound by any information provided to the purchaser, whether this is spoken or written information
- provide their service for a ‘reasonable price’ where the price isn’t agreed before the work is carried out
- carry out the service within a ‘reasonable time’ unless a timescale is agreed beforehand
If the service provided does not meet these conditions, the service provider should make right the part of the service that is unsatisfactory or provide the whole service again free of charge. Either of these actions should be carried out within a ‘reasonable time’ and limit the inconvenience caused to the purchaser.
Where it is impossible for the service to be repeated, or this cannot happen within a reasonable time or with limited inconvenience, the purchaser may claim a reduction in the price up to 100%, depending on the severity of the service failings. Any refund should be made within 14 days of agreeing the refund.
- Hidden fees and charges
Any terms set out in contracts that are not clear and obvious may be challenged under the Consumer Rights Act, for instance, where there are additional undiscussed charges hidden in the small print of a contract or unreasonably high termination charges.
How legal advice can help
If items or services you have purchased have failed to meet the conditions of ‘as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose’, and you are unsure of how to approach the involved retailer for remedy, take specialist legal advice on your consumer rights, whether under the Sale of Goods Act or the current Consumer Rights Act.