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Know your consumer rights

Introduction

This guide offers an introduction to your legal rights and remedies when buying products and services as a consumer within the UK. We also provide links to Government-funded sites where you can find more detailed information.

Consumer rights and the law

Two areas of legislation are particularly important in providing rights for UK consumers: The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) and section 75 of The Consumer Credit Act 1974. There's often also a "cooling-off" period for UK consumers who buy products or services online.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 as amended

This Act 1979 provides consumers with the right to expect that goods they buy from a seller should be a) as described, b) of satisfactory quality and c) fit for purpose.

As described - means that what you are actually given in return for your money should meet the description of what you were told you were buying. For the purposes of this aspect of consumer protection, the source of the description can range from what a salesperson tells you over the counter to what is written on packaging. Potential differences compared to the description could arise in respect of the size, quantity, colour or other features of a product.

Of satisfactory quality - means that the standard of the goods should meet what a reasonable person would expect considering both how they were described and the price you paid. The law specifies that the goods must be free of minor defects, have a good finish and appearance and be safe, durable and fit for all purposes that they're commonly supplied for.

Fit for purpose - in addition to the protection provided so far, the goods must also be fit for any specific purpose that a buyer agreed with a seller at the time of purchase.

Where goods turn out not to be of satisfactory quality, this consumer rights law means that you may be able to make a claim for a refund, repair or replacement for up to six years following purchase (five in Scotland). What may constitute a reasonable time period will vary by product and circumstances.

When seeking to make a claim for a refund, repair or replacement under the Act, the consumer's recourse is always against the retailer, not the manufacturer.

Section 75 of The Consumer Credit Act

Where goods or services costing more than £100 are paid for by credit card, then both the trader and the credit card issuer can be held jointly liable by consumers for any breach of contract. This applies to purchases costing up to £30,000, even where only part of the overall price (eg only a deposit) was paid for by credit card.

Issues that could fall under this coverage include goods with faults, inadequate services and poor quality work.

Goods supplied under hire purchase agreements are subject to different rules.

Buying online - seven day cooling-off period

For many goods and services, the law gives consumers who buy "at a distance" (which includes online) the added protection of a cooling-off period. This opportunity to change your mind lasts until the end of the seventh working day following:

- for goods, the day on which they were received;
- for services, the day on which a trader agreed to proceed with providing them.

If you weren't provided with all the necessary written information, this extends to a further three months or, if the information is provided late, seven days from receiving it.

Different rules apply to financial services. Also, under certain circumstances, there's no right to cancel at all. Examples include where goods are personalised, made to a custom specification or are perishable.

More information

For consumer advice and more information about topics including The Sale of Goods Act 1979, section 75 of The Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the cooling-off period for goods and services bought online, visit Advice Guide.


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