Faulty Christmas present or sales bargain – what are your consumer rights?

9th January 2014

As a consumer, you are protected with a number of statutory rights which provide a range of remedies when you purchase goods for personal use i.e. not related to their trade, business or profession. Indeed, you have a greater choice of remedies than trade buyers.

Jagdip Bains, a dispute resolution solicitor with Ansons in Staffordshire explains your rights and your options if you have purchased goods in the sales, or received a Christmas present, which did not work – even you put the batteries in the right way around!

Implied terms in contracts for sale of goods 

Certain terms are implied into any contract for the sale of goods and cannot be excluded in consumer contracts. In particular, goods must: 

  • correspond with their description – for example, a dish that is described as “ovenproof”, but shatters when used under the normal conditions for making a casserole, will not correspond with its description;
  • be of satisfactory quality – quality includes the state, condition and fitness for all purposes which goods of that kind are commonly supplied; appearance and finish; and durability. 

Remedies if products are not of satisfactory quality 

As a consumer, you have four possible remedies when products do not conform to the contract for sale: 

  • rejection – you can reject the goods and request your money back, provided you complain within a reasonable time;
  • damages (compensation) –you can claim damages, which will generally equate to the cost of repair or replacement of the goods. You may also be able to claim compensation for damage caused by faulty goods (for example, where a washing machine leaked). If you have accepted the goods, this is your only remedy;
  • repair or replacement – if you request a repair or replacement, the business will need to carry them out within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to you. A business can refuse to repair the goods if the cost would be disproportionately higher than the cost of the replacement (or vice versa).
  • Refund – you can request a full or partial refund. The business is entitled to request proof of purchase (for example, a till receipt or a credit card statement). You do not have to accept credit notes when goods are faulty or not as described. 

Time limits for bringing claims 

The time limit for a consumer to bring a claim is six years. The date generally runs from the date the goods were sold, although there are some exceptions to this. The fact that consumers have five or six years to bring a claim, in theory, does not mean all goods should last this long in practice.

Minimising losses 

You must take reasonable steps to mitigate your loss. For example, you should report faults as soon as possible, to make it easier to show the goods were inherently faulty at the point of sale and to prevent the goods from deteriorating further.

Protection for businesses 

The business that sold or manufactured the goods could be protected if: 

  • they drew your attention to any unsatisfactory quality before the contract is made (such as a faulty zip in clothing in a sale); or
  • you examined the goods before the contract was made and founds (or should have found) a defect. 

According to government guidance, you cannot hold a business responsible for defects arising from: 

  • fair wear and tear;
  • misuse or accidental damage by you; or
  • where you tried to repair yourself or had someone else attempt a repair and this damaged the goods. 

Most consumer purchase problems are resolved satisfactorily without the need for legal advice or litigation. However, there are occasions where an item may be very high in value or where significant damage has been caused to property or a personal injury. If so, the Ansons dispute resolution solicitors, with offices in Cannock and Lichfield, will be delighted to help. Contact Jagdip Bains for further information on 01543 267 196 or email