CONSUMER RIGHTS ACT
What do I do if I have a faulty product?
If something you’ve bought develops a fault, this guide explains your rights to a refund, repair or replacement, depending on the length of time you’ve owned the product.
What is a faulty good?
Under the Consumer Rights Act, all products – including electrical goods – must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
The rules also include digital content in this definition. So all products – whether physical, electrical or digital – must meet the following standards:
Satisfactory quality Goods shouldn’t be faulty or damaged when you receive them. You should ask yourself what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory for the goods in question. For example, bargain-bucket products won’t be held to as high standards as luxury goods.
Fit for purpose The goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods.
As described The goods supplied must match any description given to you, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase.
Get a refund, repair or replacement
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Make a faulty goods complaint
You could be entitled to a repair, replacement or a refund even if the product is out of warranty, answer some simple questions and Which? can help you start your complaint for free
The date you made the purchase determines which legislation applies.
If you bought your goods any time from 1 October 2015, then the Consumer Rights Act applies.
If you bought your goods on or before 30 September 2015, then the Sale of Goods Act will apply.
How long do I have to return a faulty product?
Under the Consumer Rights Act you have an early right to reject goods that are unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, and get a full refund.
But this right is limited to 30 days from the date you took ownership of the goods (this could be the date of purchase or the date the goods were delivered to you – whichever is later).
After the initial 30 days, you can’t demand a full refund in the first instance, but you still have the right to a repair or replacement – including electrical faulty goods.
This right doesn’t apply to faulty digital content. The retailer has one opportunity to repair or replace digital content that is of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, before you can claim a refund on a digital download.
How quick do I have to return a faulty item?
You have the right to reject your item and get a refund within 30 days of possessing the goods.
You could also ask the retailer to repair or replace your item within six months of purchase.
Your rights against the retailer can last for up to six years, but after the first six months the onus is on you to prove a fault was present at the time you took ownership of the goods.
You can also use your guarantee or warranty if your product develops a fault.
After the first 30 days
If you’re outside the 30-day right to reject, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital content which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.
You can choose whether you want the goods to be repaired or replaced.
But the retailer can refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared with the alternative.
If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund, or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.
Can I get a full refund? – the first 6 months
If you’ve owned the item for less than six months, the retailer must give you a full refund if an attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful.
The only exception to this is motor vehicles, where the retailer can make a deduction for fair use after the first 30 days.
It doesn’t matter whether you bought your goods before or after 1 October 2015 – in the first six months from when you buy something, the onus is on the seller to prove your defective product was of satisfactory quality when you received it.
It’s not for you to prove that the faulty item was not of satisfactory quality in order to get it repaired or replaced during the first six months after purchase.
Six months or more
If a defect develops after the first six months, the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time the goods were delivered to you.
In practice, this may require some form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems or defects across the product range.
The retailer can also make a deduction from any refund for fair use after the first 6 months of ownership if an attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful.
You have up to six years to take a claim to the small claims court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland.
This doesn’t mean that a product has to last six years – just that you have this length of time in which to make a claim if a retailer refuses to repair or replace a faulty product.
Was a fault present at purchase?
Which? found that only 13% of people knew that six months after buying a product, the onus is on you to prove a fault was present at the time of purchase in order to claim a refund, repair or replacement.
When we asked people how they would prove a fault was there when they bought the product, 68% said they wouldn’t know how to do this.
The truth is, the law doesn’t explain how you can prove this, which can make it problematic when you’re asked to do so.
Guidance has tended to focus on getting an independent report from a repair shop or expert, but this advice dates back to a time when these were a common presence on high streets.
You could be hard pressed to find one now. But it’s worth looking in your local area for a repair shop if you need to get an objective opinion.
Here are a few suggestions on what you can do:
If you can find a repair shop or expert to undertake an independent report on a defective product, it’s worth doing so as long as the cost isn’t disproportionate to the value of the product. It’s also worth checking that the retailer is happy with your choice of independent expert.
Are people on social media complaining of the same fault? What about any reviewers or journalists? The more evidence you can collect about the faulty product and how widespread the defect is, the stronger your case will be.
If the retailer fobs you off and tells you there’s nothing it can do, you could consider referring your case to the consumer ombudsman.
Tips for getting a complaint dealt with
Act quickly. You have 30 days from taking physical ownership of the goods to claim a refund for a faulty product; after this time you may be offered a repair or replacement.
In the first instance, write to the customer-services department politely and objectively, so you have a written record as evidence. Then escalate if you’re not happy with the response.
Quote the relevant laws.
Say what you want to happen – refund, explanation or apology.
Say what you will do if not satisfied with the response, such as going to the relevant ombudsman or small claims court.
Do I have to pay to return a faulty item?
If your item is faulty and you need to return it, you don’t need to pay postage costs for the return of the faulty item.
If you are asked to return an item that arrived damaged, not as described or faulty, the retailer should refund you the total cost of the return.
Do I need a receipt to return a faulty product?
Being able to show a receipt for the faulty goods you purchased may speed up your claim, but it is not essential to have one.
In many cases it would be unreasonable for a retailer to expect you to have kept your receipt, especially if the goods develop a fault after several months.
Proof of purchase, like a bank statement, is enough evidence to provide you purchased the goods.
Should I accept credit notes for faulty goods?
The seller’s returns policy can’t require customers to take vouchers where an item has been returned because it is faulty.
The Consumer Rights Act specifies the rights that consumers have if products develop a fault and the seller can’t remove or reduce these.
What if the retailer refuses to help?
If you’re having problems and the shop won’t refund, repair or replace your goods, then you should report it to your local trading standards department, as the retailer is breaching your statutory rights.
It’s worth telling the shop that you’re going to do this, as it could mean your complaint is then dealt with.
If the retailer fobs you off or blames the manufacturer, you might want to take your complaint to the consumer ombudsman.
You could also consider using your guarantee or warranty.
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Can I use a guarantee or warranty?
Many products, such as electrical goods, are offered with a manufacturer’s guarantee or sold with a manufacturer’s warranty that often lasts for one year.
Guarantees and warranties are a contract between you and the manufacturer, and the manufacturer must do whatever it says it will do in them.
Usually this will be to repair or replace a faulty item. Retailers will sometimes contact the manufacturer on your behalf, but they are not obliged to do so.
However, you still have rights under the Consumer Rights Act or Sale of Goods Act, even if your manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee has expired, and retailers can’t ignore this.
It will depend on the product and the fault, but you could be legally entitled to a free repair or, in some cases, a replacement by the retailer for some time after the manufacturer’s guarantee has expired.
Read our guide on when to use a manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee for more information.
What if a faulty product causes death, damage or injury?
According to the Consumer Protection Act 1987, anyone who’s harmed by an unsafe product can sue the manufacturer – even if you didn’t buy the product or electrical good yourself.
You can sue for compensation for death or injury. You can also sue for damage or loss of private property caused by faulty goods if the damage amounts to at least £275.
The amount you can claim will depend on the harm suffered, and there is no upper limit to compensation.
There are also certain criminal sanctions that apply to the general safety of products. For example, a lack of safety information can lead to up to 12 months’ imprisonment and a large fine.
Can I take my claim to court?
Court should be a last resort and you should do everything you can to resolve the dispute before taking this step.
If all your attempts to exercise your rights fail or the retailer doesn’t respond, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is the trader still trading?
Do I have a good chance of winning my case in court?
If I win, will I be able to recover the money from the other side?
Is the amount at stake worth the cost of the court case?
Anyone considering starting court action in England and Wales (even in the small claims court) has to follow the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduction.
This gives you and the party you’re in dispute with clear steps to follow to help you resolve the dispute. And, if this isn’t possible the Practice Direction tells you the necessary steps to take your dispute to court.
RETURNS & REFUNDS
I want to return something bought online
High street shops don’t have to accept returns unless an item is faulty, but online purchases are covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations
When you buy goods online you have additional rights to return them.
This is because your decision may be based on a brief description or a photograph – so what you receive isn’t always quite what you’d expected.
Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, you are allowed to return an item if you simply change your mind.
Online returns timelines
You have the right to cancel at any time from the moment you place your online order, and up to 14 days from the day you receive your goods.
You need to notify the retailer of your wish to cancel your order within this time period – by email, for example.
You then have a further 14 days from the date you notify the retailer of your cancellation to return the goods.
Longer returns periods
Many online retailers extend the cancellation period even further, so be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully as you may have longer to return unwanted items.
However, be aware that if you rely on the online store’s more generous timeline for returns, you may also then have to adhere to extra conditions when you come to send the goods back.
If you return your unwanted goods according to the timelines set out by the Consumer Contracts Regulations, there are only a few exemptions to getting a refund.
Exemptions to online returns
There are some circumstances where the Consumer Contracts Regulations won’t give you a right to cancel.
These include CDs, DVDs or software if you’ve broken the seal on the wrapping, perishable items and tailor-made or personalised items. They also include goods with a seal for health protection and hygiene reasons that’s been broken.
Also included are goods that have been mixed inseparably with other items after delivery.
Paying to return goods
You must cover the cost for returning unwanted goods, unless the retailer says it will cover these costs.
Just in case the retailer disputes you’ve returned your goods, we recommend you get proof of postage – this should be sufficient evidence to prove that you’ve returned the goods.
If your goods are faulty, you shouldn’t to pay to return the goods.
Getting a refund
While you have to pay to return the goods, the retailer has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place. If you opted for enhanced service eg guaranteed next day, it only has to refund the basic cost.
Your refund for the goods must be paid within 14 calendar days after returning the goods, or evidence that they were returned.
A deduction can be made if the value of the goods has been reduced as a result of you handling the goods more than was necessary.
The extent to which you can handle the goods is the same as it would be if you were assessing them in a shop.
Consumer Contracts Regulations allow you to cancel any time from the moment you place your order and up to 14 calendar days from the day you receive your goods
You must notify the retailer of your wish to cancel and return the goods – by email, for example
You are responsible for returning the item within 14 calendar days of cancelling and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after returning the goods, or evidence that they were returned
You still have rights under the Consumer Rights Act for returning faulty goods bought online
Returning faulty goods bought online
The Consumer Contracts Regulations are in addition to your other legal rights.
If you receive goods that are faulty and don’t do what they’re supposed to, or don’t match the description given, you have the same rights under the Consumer Rights Act as you have when buying face to face.
Any terms and conditions that say you must cover the cost of returning an item don’t apply where the goods being returned are faulty.
If you are looking to return your item because it is faulty, read our guide on what to do if you need to return a faulty product.
Should I accept credit notes for returns?
The retailer may have a returns policy stating that it will only give customers a credit note or vouchers for returns. But this must only apply where customers are looking to return an unwanted item. Additionally, if you are returning your online order up to or within the 14 days from the day you received your goods, under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you can ask for a refund rather than a credit note.
The seller’s returns policy also can’t require customers to take vouchers where an item has been returned due to it being faulty. The Consumer Rights Act specifies the rights that consumers have if products develop a fault and the seller can’t remove or reduce these.
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