As everyday consumers of goods and services our rights are protected by Consumer Law, from poor quality and faulty goods to issues with services, our knowledgeable solicitors can help you understand your rights and the best way to move forward.

What are my rights when I buy from a shop?

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended), anything you buy from a trader must be:

  • As described 
  • Satisfactory quality and 
  • Fit for purpose.

Under this Act, even if your guarantee has ended, you can still complain for up to six years from the date of purchase.

What does "as described" mean?

Any product you buy must match the description or any sample you've been shown. So if a label describes a jacket as being "100 per cent cotton", it should be exactly that. Or if you order curtains based on a swatch of fabric, the final product must match it.

How do I know if something is satisfactory quality?

This means they shouldn't have any faults, even minor ones, unless they were sold as damaged stock.

Products must also be reasonably durable. This is quite hard to define and depends on the goods. You would expect a carpet, for example, to last longer than a pair of shoes. You should normally expect electrical items, like iPods or washing machines, to last for several years.

What does "fit for purpose" mean?

Whatever you buy should do the job it's meant to do. So you can expect Wellington boots to keep the water out, although fashion boots might not. If you were told a new printer would work with your computer and it doesn't, then it would not have been "fit for purpose".

What can I do if there is a problem?

You can reject a faulty product and claim a full refund within a reasonable time. There's no definition for this - it will depend on the product and how much you've used it. But normally you should complain within a few weeks.
If you keep the product or carry on using it after you've discovered the fault, you might lose your right to a full refund. However, if the product was faulty when you bought it and this comes to light within six years (five years in Scotland), you can claim compensation.

What compensation am I entitled to?

You will usually get the cost of repair, or you can ask for a replacement or a repair. If this would cost too much, the shop can offer you a full or partial refund - the amount would depend on the defect and how much you've used the product. For example, you would get less for a kettle you've used every day for six months than an ice-cream maker you've only used twice.

Do I have to prove the product was faulty when I bought it?

If you find the fault within six months, the law assumes it was there when you bought the product. After six months, you might have to prove this yourself, which may mean getting an expert to examine it.
If you misuse something and break it, you won't be able to get compensation.

Can I get my money back if I change my mind?

You don't have any rights to a refund if you just change your mind or bought the wrong size. But many shops will offer you an exchange as goodwill.

Will I need a receipt?

No, you just need proof of purchase for example a bank statement. The retailer also can't refuse a refund just because you've taken the product out of its packaging. If it's faulty, they are still responsible.

Do I have to complain to the manufacturer?

No, the retailer has to sort out these problems. If you buy something costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 on a credit card or a finance agreement, then the finance or card company is also jointly liable for any defects.

Am I protected if I buy something online?

Yes. You are also protected by the Distance Selling Regulations if you buy something over the internet, by mail order or catalogue, digital television, phone or fax. These say that:

  • You have a cooling-off period of seven working days after agreeing to buy, during which you can cancel and 
  • The seller must give you information before you buy, including a clear description, contact details, cost and payment, delivery arrangements and cancellation rights.

This should also be included in a written confirmation of your order. There are some exclusions, such as perishable goods (flowers, fresh food etc) and newspapers and magazines.

What about buying services?

If you've hired someone to do some work, you are protected by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. This means they must do the work:

  • With reasonable care and skill 
  • In a reasonable time, if you haven't set a completion date and 
  • For a reasonable price, if this hasn't been agreed in advance.

What can I do if I can't sort my problem out with the shop or tradesman?

You can get more information about your rights when buying goods and services from Advice Guide, call 0845 4040 506 or contact your local Trading Standards department.

Please be aware that this is not legal advice and if you are concerned about any of the issues mentioned you should speak to a lawyer.

Call our Consumer Law & Civil Litigation Solicitors on freephone 0808 175 7758 or contact us online.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Wakefield, Merseyside, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.