This section shows the rights you have as a consumer when purchasing goods. If you have a problem with a specific type of goods, then click on the appropriate link in the left hand column to access the article.
We all have rights when buying goods as a consumer from a trader. Whilst there are various laws that protect those rights, the main ones are:
The trader must provide you with goods that are:
There are a number of things a trader is not allowed to do when they sell you goods. These include:
A trader may be guilty of a criminal offence if they mislead you so that you take a different decision about whether or not to buy something.
This could be by giving you misleading information. For example, you are told your washing machine can't be repaired and you need a new one. If this is not true, the trader is committing a misleading action.
A trader may also be guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to give you important information that affects whether or not you buy something. This is called a misleading omission. For example, a trader advertises mobile phones for sale without mentioning they are reconditioned. This is important information that you should have been told about.
If you buy goods from a trader and they are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or don't match their description, the trader will probably have to put things right. It is the trader who is responsible for this, and not the manufacturer. If a trader tells you the manufacturer is responsible, or that you have to make a claim on a manufacturers' guarantee, you do not have to accept this.
Depending on the circumstances, you may have one or more of the following rights:
Remember, you have no legal rights where your complaint arises from:
If things go wrong with goods you have bought, you have the right to return them and get all your money back (a full refund). However, this right only lasts for a very short time after you buy the goods. You are allowed a short time to examine the goods and try them out, but you must tell the trader about the fault as soon as you discover it. It will be up to you to prove that there is something wrong with the goods if the trader doesn't accept this.
You will not be able to get a full refund if you have:
If you think you are entitled to a full refund, but the trader offers you one of these alternatives instead, you may want to think about accepting it, but you don't have to. To find out what you can do if a trader refuses to offer you what you're entitled to, see the heading 'How to deal with problems with goods' below.
If there is something wrong with your goods and you aren't entitled to, or don't want to get a full refund, you can ask the trader to either repair or replace them for free instead. You might not be able to get a full refund if, perhaps, you had the goods for too long before realising there was a problem, or before the problem became obvious.
If you take the goods back within six months of buying them, the trader must accept that they were faulty at the time of sale and offer to repair or replace them. If the trader doesn't accept that the goods were faulty, they will have to prove this.
If you have had your goods for more than six months when they go wrong, you can still ask the trader to repair or replace them, but you may have to prove that they were faulty when you bought them if the trader doesn't agree. You can ask for a repair or replacement at any time up to six years after you bought the goods (five years in Scotland), as long as it is reasonable for them to have lasted this long. If the goods go wrong after six years (or five in Scotland), you no longer have the right to ask for a repair or replacement.
If the trader agrees to carry out a repair or provide a replacement, they must do this within a reasonable period of time, and without causing you any significant inconvenience. If you ask the trader for a repair, but this turns out to be impractical or to be too expensive, the trader doesn't have to repair your goods, but you can choose to have a replacement instead. In the same way, if you have asked the trader to replace your goods and this turns out to be impractical or too expensive, the trader doesn't have to replace them, but you can choose to have a repair instead.
If neither repair nor replacement is practical, you can ask to get some or all of your money back. You can also ask to get some or all of your money back if:
Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a credit card company is jointly liable with a supplier if an article purchased is faulty. However, the article purchased must cost between £100 and £30,000. It is advisable, however, to pursue the supplier in the first instance under section 14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which states the goods must be of satisfactory quality and fit for their intended purpose.
When you complain about goods, the trader may offer you a credit note. A credit note allows you to return the goods and buy something else for the same value.
If you have the right to a refund, repair, replacement or compensation, you don't have to accept a credit note instead, although you may choose to do so. You may also choose to accept a credit note where you don't have any of these rights.
If you accept a credit note, you cannot change your mind later and get a refund or compensation, even if you had been entitled to it.
A credit note does not have to take any particular form. It may be offered as a gift voucher and it can also have conditions attached to it. You may have to use it within a given time limit.
If you are thinking of accepting a credit note, check the conditions on it and make sure that the trader has goods that you want to buy.
You cannot insist on having a credit note if the trader doesn't want to give you one.
When you buy something, the trader may give you other rights on top of those that the law usually allows. For example, some shops allow you to return items to them during a short period after the sale, even if there is nothing wrong with them. Look out for anything which tells you about these rights when you buy something. It may mean that you can ask for your money back, a credit note, an exchange, a replacement or a discount in the selling price, when you might otherwise have had no right to do so.
Sometimes when you buy something from a trader, you will agree on a particular condition of sale which you have negotiated with them on an individual basis. This might be, for example, a specific delivery date or that the item supplied is in a particular colour. You have a right to expect the trader to stick to this condition. If they don't, you may be able to ask for your money back, an exchange or replacement, or a discount in the selling price.
An unfair contract term is a standard term in a contract of sale which makes the contract unfair to the customer. Standard terms are those that the trader has drawn up in advance, not the ones that you negotiate individually when you are deciding whether to buy something. If you have a written contract, standard terms are contained in the small print.
Examples of unfair terms include contracts written in such a way that you cannot understand them, or terms that try to take away your rights to claim from the trader for faulty goods. If there is any doubt about the meaning of a contract term, it should be decided in favour of the customer.
It is against the law to discriminate against someone on the grounds of their sex, sexuality, religion, race or disability when providing goods. Sex discrimination includes discrimination against transsexual people and discrimination against women because of pregnancy or maternity.
In Northern Ireland, it is also against the law to discriminate against someone on grounds of their political opinion.
If you have bought dangerous or faulty goods, they may have caused damage to property or personal injury to you or someone else. If you know a trader is selling dangerous or unsafe goods or a manufacturer has an unsafe product on the market, you should complain to.
You can claim compensation for unsafe goods which have caused damage or personal injury. If you bought the goods yourself, you can claim compensation from either the trader or the manufacturer. If you didn't buy the goods yourself, you can only claim compensation from the manufacturer, not the trader. You might have to go to court to try and get compensation.
For more information on going to court, see our '' section.
If you want to claim compensation for personal injury or damage to property, this can be a complex legal area and you should get specialist advice. Contact your solicitor or your local.
Don't rely on phone calls - you have no proof of what was said in any conversation.
Send the trader a letter by recorded delivery post, within the time limit, stating that you wish to cancel.
Remember to keep a copy of that letter. You will normally have to return all goods.
For more information, see our '' article.
Go back to the shop or get in touch with the trader as soon as possible. Explain your problem, identify the faults and tell the trader what you want to be done and set a deadline. If you do not get a satisfactory response to your request, write to the trader and detail the problems. If the shop is part of a chain, write to the head office address as well. Address these letters to the customer services manager or the chairman.
When you buy something that is faulty at the time of sale, you are entitled to a repair or replacement. The trader is entitled to refuse either of these where it can be shown that the cost of doing so would be excessive in comparison to the alternative. Whatever remedy is agreed, it should not result in undue inconvenience to you, the customer.
If a repair or replacement is not practical, you have the option to request a full or partial refund, depending on what is reasonable.
Normally, it is your responsibility, as the buyer, to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of sale. However, in the first six months from the date of purchase, when you return goods to request a repair or replacement, (or following that, a refund) you do not have to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of sale. There is an assumption that the goods were faulty unless the trader can prove otherwise. If you opt for a refund rather than a repair or replacement, the onus will remain on you to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of sale.
You can make a claim up to six years from the date of sale. This does not mean that the goods should last for six years, but is just the absolute limit for making a claim.
If you are unable to resolve the situation with the trader, it may be necessary to go to court to resolve it. If you intend to pursue the matter through the Courts, you may have to pay an independent expert to examine the goods and compile a report. The Court may award the cost of this to you.
The maximum value of a claim that can be heard by the Small Claims Court is £5,000.
For more information on going to court, see our '' section.