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I do not have any legal qualifications, but list below some general information which  I believe applies in the U.K.  As rules and regulations are continually changing, I would advise you seek professional advice for clarification on any points shown:-

My thanks to Nick Condon for some updated and comprehensive additions to this information.

When you buy goods from a shop you are protected by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 which states the items purchased must comply with the following three tests:-

They must be of satisfactory quality.   Goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.

The quality of the goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are aspects of quality:-

- fitness for all the purposes for which the goods of the kind are commonly supplied.

- appearance and finish and freedom from minor defects.

- safety and durability.

The quality of goods would not, however, necessarily be unsatisfactory:-

- where the alleged defect is specifically drawn to the buyer's attention before the contract is made;  or

- where the buyer examines the goods before the contract is made and such examination ought to have revealed the defect; or

- in the case of a contract of sale by sample where the defect would have been apparent on a reasonable examination of the sample.

They must be fit for purpose.  This means that they must do the job you have specified you want them for.  For instance, if you ask for external masonry paint and are sold internal gloss paint,  or upholstery fabric and were sold dress fabric, these would not be "fit for purpose".

They must be as described.  If the packaging specifies double fitted sheet and it turns out to be a double flat sheet, or the packaging states the colour as "Green" and it turns out to be pink, this is not as described.

If your purchases are not satisfactory for any of the above reasons, and they have not been used, you are entitled to a replacement or your money back.  You do not have to accept a Credit Note.  You are not, however, entitled to a replacement or refund if you change your mind or it does not fit, unless the store in question has and exchange/money-back policy.

I have been asked to point out that "in the event that goods are not faulty or defective in any way or not misrepresented, the retailer is in no way obliged to give a cash refund, or indeed even credit (unless agreement to the contrary was made at time of purchase). As a good will policy many retailers will issue credit and a few will refund cash.".  (Thanks to Tom Burton for this addition)

It is worth pointing out that your contract is with the store from which you purchased the item, not with the manufacturer in question.  It is up to the retailer to put the matter right for you and then, they in turn, can take it up with the manufacturer.  Don't be forced to take it up with the manufacturer yourself.

It is often assumed that if an item is wrongly priced the retailer is obligated to sell it at the price shown.   This is not the case, the shopkeeper can sell it at the correct price and, of course, you can refuse to buy it.  You are however entitled to report the incident to the Trading Standards Officer.

The above safeguards do not apply when buying items privately.  It is often a good idea to take someone with you in order to witness the sale, in case of problems later.

Some traders pose as private individuals to evade the requirements of the Sale of Goods Act  (secondhand cars for instance).  If you suspect this to be the case report the personal to your local Trading Standards Officer.

When buying goods secondhand, all three basic requirements under the Sale of Goods Act apply.  Although you cannot expect goods to be in perfect condition they should work, unless you have been told otherwise.  If, for instance, you buy a washing machine then it does not work, you are entitled to your money back.

If you intend to buy something secondhand, it pays to do your homework first.

  • Check the approximate secondhand value of the type of item.  This can be done by looking in local papers, Exchange & Mart, store noticeboards etc.  It is also useful to know the current price of the same model if bought new.

  • Try to go to see the object during daylight so you can inspect it properly and get a demonstration if possible.

  • If it is an expensive item take an expert along with you.


Having made a purchase it is as well to remember -

  • If you paid by credit card and the goods turn out to be faulty you have rights against the credit card company provided they cost more that 100 and less than 30,000.

  • If you bought them on hire purchase, they are not actually your property until the final payment has been made and, therefore, if you default with payments the item can be repossessed by the finance company.

If, however, you have paid more than one-third of the total price of the goods then they can only be repossessed with a court order.  If the finance company repossesses them without a court order you are entitled to *all* your money back.

  • If you bought them on credit terms, the goods become your property immediately and, therefore, if you default with payment the finance company can take legal action but cannot repossess the goods.




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