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Buying goods

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Quick Links

- Buying Goods
- Faulty Goods

- Additional Consumer Rights

- Disputes with the Seller

- Seller goes bust

- Extra protection?

- Doorstep selling

- Cancelling goods

- Goods you haven’t ordered

Buying Goods

We all buy things and it is really disappointing if the thing you bought goes wrong, or isn’t what you expected it to be.  We’ve had nearly 20 years of experience of talking people through their consumer rights and helping them get their money back, or a replacement product and often an apology gift or payment as well!

The rights we’re talking about in this section apply if you’ve bought the goods from a business or a professional trader, but are unlikely to apply if you’ve bought them in a private sale, for example; at a jumble sale or from a private seller on ebay.

The Sale of Goods Act states that when you buy goods they must be as described and fit for the purpose for which they are sold.

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Faulty Goods

If something you’ve bought develops a fault or is not fit for purpose, under the Sale of Goods Act you have the right to get your money back, or have it repaired or replaced as follows:

  • A full refund. This is where you reject the goods and ask for your money back. In most circumstances you can do this within a short period of time after you buy the goods.  The time available to do this will vary according to the circumstances.
  • Where the goods are less than 6 months old, it is presumed the goods are faulty, unless the seller can prove that you caused the damage.  In this case you can be offered a repair or a replacement.
  • Where the goods are more than 6 months old, it will be presumed the goods are faulty and this is not damage that has been caused by you.  Again it will be for the seller to offer a repair or a replacement.
  • Partial refund – if the seller won’t provide any of the other remedies, you can ask for a reduction in the price of the goods or to return the goods and get your money back minus an amount for the use you’ve had from them.  This is usually the case where you have already had significant use of the item before the fault.

You don’t have a right to return goods if:

  • You knew the goods were faulty when you bought them.
  • The fault was obvious and you should have noticed it.
  • You caused the damage.
  • You made a mistake – you can’t just take something back because you made a mistake and got the wrong size or the wrong colour.
  • You change your mind and decide you don’t want it or you find it cheaper somewhere else.

You should always let the seller know and return the faulty products as soon as possible.

There are some things you buy that generally cannot be returned such as:

  • DVD’s, music and computer software such as games.
  • Perishable items such as food or flowers.
  • Goods which are personalised or made to order such as clothes.

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Additional Consumer Rights

Retailer policies

Some retailers have policies that give you more protection than the Sale of Goods Act. It is always worth asking what the returns policy is and checking whether there is one if you need to return an item.

Guarantees or Warranties

Either the seller or the manufacturer of the goods may provide you with an additional guarantee or a warranty which gives you rights in addition to your statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act and other related legislation. You should always check whether the product has a guarantee or a warranty and what you need to do to make a claim under it. Some manufacturers may require you to register your ownership with them when you buy the goods.

Guarantees and warranties are usually provided by manufacturers, although some leading retailers may offer extended guarantees as part of an overall package.  If you experience a problem with the goods a seller may sometimes try to persuade you to deal with the manufacturer instead of insisting on your statutory rights, but you don’t have to agree to this.

Extended Warranties

If you have bought an extended warranty of more than a year, you can cancel it up to 45 days after you purchased it and get a refund, unless you bought it online (or otherwise at a distance) in which case you have 14 days to cancel it.

If you want to cancel after the 45 day period, you can get a partial refund.

If you have made a claim on the warranty you may not be able to get a refund, or may only be able to get a partial refund, depending on the wording of the warranty and the claim you made.

Right to specific pre-contract information if you buy something at the retailer’s premises

From the 13th of June 2014 consumers will have a right to specific information before they enter a contract. This information includes:

  • The main characteristics of the goods or services.
  • The identity of the trader.
  • The total price of the goods and/or services including taxes.

These information requirements do not apply to contracts which involve ‘day –to –day’ transactions and are performed immediately. So buying a chocolate bar at a newsagent isn’t covered by them, but less regular purchases or purchases to be delivered later will be e.g. furniture, white goods, kitchens etc.

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Things to do if there is a dispute with the seller


If you buy something under £100 with your debit card or credit card you might be able to reverse the transaction and get your money back.  Your bank or building society will be able to tell you about their chargeback policy and how you use it. It is important to get in touch with them as soon as you realise that there is something wrong with the products or they haven’t turned up as there is usually a time limit of 120 days on when you can claim a charge back.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act

If you buy something for more than £100 and less than £30,000 with a credit card, you are protected by s75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that your card company has joint responsibility with the seller if there is something wrong with the goods or they don’t turn up you can claim against your card company to get your money back.

It is the price of the goods that matters, not how much you paid on the credit card. So the card provider could still be liable even if you only paid the deposit by credit card. If you need to claim under s75 you need to contact your card provider as soon as possible.

Trading standards

If a seller is being difficult and won’t deal with your complaint properly, or has tried to defraud you (for example, by describing products wrongly or not providing products for which you have paid) you can report them to trading standards. It is usually a good idea to tell them that you are considering this as it may encourage them to sort out the problem.

You can find out more about trading standards here.

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What if the company I brought from goes bust?

Sadly, this is happening more and more often. You may still be protected by s75 (see above) or by a manufacturer’s guarantee or warranty.  If you don’t have any of those protections, you need to make a claim in writing to the administrators of the company. You can usually find out who they are on the company website or by contacting Companies House or the Insolvency Service.  If you make a written application it means that you will be considered with all the other creditors of the company. You might not get all your money back and it can take up to 12 months for the administration to be sorted out and payments to be made.

If you are able to identify the item in a seller’s property you may be able to request the administrator to complete the delivery. 

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Is there extra protection if I buy goods from someone who calls at my house?

Doorstep sellers (of products worth £35 or over) have to follow certain rules, including giving you a 7 day cooling off period in which to cancel (for most goods). If you want to cancel, make sure you do it within those 7 days. From the 13th of June 2014, the cooling off period will increase to 14 days.

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Door-stepping and aggressive sales techniques

Doorstep selling regulations will apply whether you are visited by a seller with or without an appointment or agree the sales contract verbally or in writing.

It includes the sale of products and services to you at:

  • your home
  • your workplace
  • another individual’s home
  • on an excursion the trader has organised away from their business premises

You must be given specific information about cancellation in a document called ‘Notice of the Right to Cancel’.

If the seller does not follow the regulations, they will have no right to enforce the agreement which includes the collection of any outstanding sums due.

If you feel that you have been bullied into signing a contract or buying something you can complain to Trading Standards (see above), the company who sold to you and if the company is a member of the Direct Selling Association, to the association too. The Direct Selling Association has a code which its members should comply with. If they don’t they can be forced to repay your money, replace or repair products and/or pay you up to £5,000 in compensation.

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Cancelling goods you’ve ordered

If you have ordered goods from a seller you should receive them within reasonable time.  In most cases, if there is undue delay you will be able to cancel the order. It is important to cancel any orders as soon as possible, especially if goods are being specially made or altered for you. If special work has been done on a product for you (for example, engraving a message on jewellery) you may not be able to cancel the order, or may have to pay part of the cost of it if the work has already started.

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Goods you haven’t ordered

To discourage unethical business practice the law allows consumers who have received goods they have not ordered to give the supplier the opportunity to collect them at their own expense.  If this does not happen within 20 working days of being received by you, the law states the goods may be kept.

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Buying at a distance or online

Please see our separate guide to buying online.


Other areas that may be of interest.

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