The Sale of Goods Act 1979 protects you from buying anything that is faulty, not safe or that does not work.

If you purchase an item and it is faulty then you have the right to ask for a repair or replacement of the item, a refund or some of your money back.

Sometimes though, traders may not want to give you what you are entitled to or perhaps fail to understand what your rights are under the law, but where exactly do you stand?

Firstly, the goods you buy must be ‘of satisfactory quality’. This means that once you have taken into account all of their factors, including the price, whether they are second hand and anything else, a reasonable person would think that they were of this standard.

The item needs to also be fit for purpose. A pair of shoes need to withstand someone walking in them and a dishwasher should wash dishes. It should look as you would expect a new item to look (free from scratches or marks) and without any minor defects such as a chip in a new china mug. If you are purchasing second hand goods, you cannot expect the finish of a new item and you need to factor this in to your assessment of the item.

Finally, the item you purchase must be safe to use and last for a reasonable length of time and in a reasonable condition.

So these are the elements that make up the Sale of Goods Act, but you must factor in things such as wear and tear and any faults that were highlighted to you when you purchased the item.

You also need to act quickly – if you wait too long before going back to the trader with the item they may deem that you have “accepted” the goods and this takes away any automatic right you have to a refund. The law says a “reasonable” time, but it is hard to say how long that is – although some faults will be more obvious and become apparent more quickly than others.

Stop using any item once you know there is a fault and if you have to sign for an item from a courier, write received but not inspected on the delivery note. Finally, remember that the Sale of Goods Act are your basic rights and in some circumstances, such as if you paid on a credit card, you may have additional rights.

By Paul Sullivan FRSA

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