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What the law says a retailer must do about faulty goods

Have you been supplied faulty goods? Find out what the retailer is legally obliged to do about it.

Which law governs your contract for the sale of goods?

When a person buys goods, they enter into a legally binding agreement with the seller - a 'contract' - which is controlled by the Sale of Goods Act (SGA) 1979.

The SGA affords buyers certain rights under the contract (occasionally called 'statutory rights').  

What are your statutory rights under a contract for the sale of goods?

Under the SGA, goods must be:

  • sold as described
  • of satisfactory quality
  • 'fit for purpose'.

'Fit for purpose' means the goods must be appropriate for their general, everyday purpose and any specific purpose that may have been expressed and agreed with the seller.

An example is if a customer specifically asks a shop owner if a particular printer that is in stock will be compatible with their computer, and the shop owner states that the printer will work with the computer, then it should be suitable.

What are you entitled to when your statutory rights have been affected by a contract for the sale of goods?

If the goods do not 'conform to the contract' - in other words, they are not sold as described, of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose - the buyer is entitled to one of a number of different remedies:

A full refund

A buyer is only entitled to a full refund, within four weeks of purchase, if they have not 'accepted' the goods. Acceptance, in this context, occurs when:

a) the buyer informs the seller of their acceptance

b) the buyer uses the goods in a way that suggests that they own the goods - for instance, if they alter or customise them

c) the buyer keeps the goods for a reasonable time without informing the seller that they have rejected them.

A free repair, free replacement, cancellation or price reduction

If the buyer has accepted the goods, they will be limited to a free repair or a free replacement within six months of purchase. (They can also choose to have the goods repaired or replaced even if they have not accepted the goods.

A buyer can ask the seller to repair or replace the goods at their expense, which the seller can refuse to do if it is impossible or too expensive compared to alternative remedies.

The repair or replacement must be done within a reasonable time and without causing the buyer significant inconvenience. If this happens, the buyer will be entitled to:

a) a refund

b) a price reduction

c) a cancellation ('rescission') of the contract with a partial refund based on usage of the goods whilst in their possession.

Damages

If a buyer has been sold goods that are faulty (or develop a fault), they are entitled to claim expenses that they have incurred. This is known as 'consequential loss'.

For example, if a tumble dryer develops a fault and tears clothing in the process, the buyer can claim for the cost of the clothing in addition to seeking a repair, replacement or partial refund from the seller. 

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