Consumer rights when you want to return faulty goods

Buying something and finding it is faulty or damaged can be highly frustrating and inconvenient. Fortunately, consumers have robust legal rights to return or reject a faulty item and demand a refund.

The seller’s duty to you

When you buy goods, whether in store or online, the seller must comply with minimum statutory obligations towards you. These include selling goods that are fit for purpose, as described and of satisfactory quality. If you have been shown a sample when discussing the sale, the goods must within reason match that sample.

What if the seller provided you with information or made representations to you and you relied on these when you chose to go ahead with your purchase? The law says any such representations any information are implied terms in the contract and the seller is bound by them.

Fit for purpose has a wide meaning

The goods you buy should be fit for purpose which has a wide meaning. For example, a product must be fit for its usual, normal and reasonable purpose. If the item is clearly faulty or damaged and you cannot use it, or you have bought clothing which you cannot wear because the zip is faulty or a seam has frayed, it is not fit for purpose.

Fit for purpose also means the item must be fit for the specific purpose you told the seller you needed it for. So, if you buy a printer and you made clear it needs to be compatible with your specific laptop, but you discover they are incompatible, the printer is not fit for purpose – even if that printer will work perfectly with other laptops.

What action you can take

If the item is faulty or not fit for purpose you have the right to reject or return the goods and demand a refund, a repair or a replacement. You must inform the seller within 30 days of receiving it if you decide to reject the goods and have a refund.

Outside of those 30 days, you may not be able to demand a refund, but you are still entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced at the seller’s cost. Sometimes repairs – and even replacements – fail and if that happens, you then have the right to a full refund within six months of that repair/replacement.

If you have to send the item back to the seller, the seller is responsible for reasonable delivery costs so you should not be left out of pocket.

Perishable items, such as a bunch of grapes that have gone mouldy, should be returned within a reasonable time – say, a couple of days – otherwise you may lose the right to a refund or replacement.

If the item worked fine when you bought it but it becomes faulty, you can still return it within a reasonable time period and ask for a refund, repair or replacement.

Do note that if you knew the item was faulty at the time of purchase you do not have the right to reject it; and if you try to repair a damaged item yourself you may forfeit your legal rights.

Faulty goods bought online or by telephone

If you bought the item online or by phone, you also have a separate 14-day cooling off period during which you can return it, whether or not it is faulty. If you choose to use your cooling-off period, you must inform the seller within 14 days of receiving the goods. You then have a further 14 days to send it back. However, there are exceptions including perishable goods such as food and flowers, personalised goods or bespoke items.

What you should do now

Contact the seller straightaway to tell them that the item is faulty and explain why. State whether you want a refund or a repair or replacement. If they refuse, explain that you are exercising your statutory legal rights and if they still refuse, contact the specialist solicitors at Warners Solicitors. We can contact the seller for you to ensure you receive a full refund or other remedy to which you are entitled.

For further information, please contact us on 01732 770660, [email protected] Warners Solicitors has offices in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, Kent.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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