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Brief cases: your rights to getting goods fixed

Glasses on news papers

When Which? Legal member Vicky Drazhner’s reading glasses from Boots Opticians broke after just four months it refused to repair or replace them. But after considering legal action Boots accepted her rights.

It said that as she hadn’t purchased a warranty, she’d have to buy a new pair, although she’d be entitled to a discount. Vicky wasn’t happy at the idea of paying for new glasses so quickly, but she had to show the opticians the Sale of Goods Act, which set out her rights, before Boots agreed to send the glasses to the manufacturer to be assessed.

brief case image

Vicky had been without her glasses for 18 days when Boots contacted her to say the manufacturer had returned them in the same condition. It had been unable to provide an assessment report to determine whether the glasses were defective or Vicky had damaged them. She was again told that Boots wouldn’t repair or replace the glasses as it did not think there was a manufacturing fault.

She complained to the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), a free mediation service that tries to resolve disputes between opticians and consumers. But it couldn’t provide a resolution and the case was closed.

Our advice

Vicky contacted Which? Legal. We confirmed her rights under the Sale of Goods Act and advised that as Boots had already had the chance to inspect the glasses and failed to prove its case, she could get an impartial expert to inspect them to see if she could claim a manufacturing fault.

Rather than do that straight away, because she didn’t want to be without her glasses, Vicky wrote to Boots Opticians again saying she didn’t agree with its analysis and if she didn’t receive a satisfactory resolution she’d consider legal action. Boots offered a full refund of £229, which she accepted.

What the law says

The Sale of Goods Act says goods should be of satisfactory quality. This includes durability. In the six months after purchase, the onus is on the supplier to prove that the defect wasn’t there when you bought the item.You’re entitled to a repair or replacement – the retailer is likely to choose the most cost-effective option.

If a repair isn’t possible or would be disproportionate in price, you may claim a refund, reduced to take into account the use you’ve had. If, like Vicky, you face a situation in which a firm won’t repair or replace, you can then go to the relevant complaints service. In this case, the OCCS deals only with the financial/contractual part of the supply of glasses.

Have you ever had an issue with a faulty product? Did you manage to get it replaced or refunded?

Comments
Member

Thanks for this Conversation, Patrick. It provides an example of how a real person has successfully challenged unfair treatment by a company, with the help of Which? Legal service.

Vicky’s case is relatively straightforward because the spectacles were only four months old when they broke, so the onus was on the retailer to prove that the fault was not present at the time of manufacture or that they had been abused.

In the January 2014 issue of the Which? magazine, we read that none of the six major electrical retailers investigated had much of a clue about consumers’ rights regarding faulty goods. Even John Lewis performed very poorly. That investigation used a bunch of actors rather than real people with real problems. It would be great if that could be repeated using Which? members with genuine problems and the cases pursued until justice has been done, as in the case of Vicky’s claim in this Conversation.

Member

It is good to hear that the Sales of Goods Act is used successfuly. Surprising it hasn’t been used more in the csase of Xperia phones – on the same basis as the glasses (the supplier must prove a defect was not there).

Member

I would particularly like to see evidence of successful claims relating to lack of durability, and I know you and Dieseltaylor are very interested in this issue. We have discussed washing machines at great length on other Conversations, and it would be good to read about successful claims after the warranty period has expired.

There are plenty of examples of screens cracking on Sony Xperia phones. Likewise with Amazon Kindles. One problem with mobile devices, especially phones, is that they are often handled fairly roughly, so it is necessary to distinguish between fair wear & tear and abuse. Many phone users have a self-adhesive film over the screen and others have no protection whatsoever. Manufacturers seem to condone this by not supplying proper protective cases incorporating a screen cover, though these are widely available. I believe that in these circumstances the manufacturers should be designing their phones to cope with a certain amount of abuse.

On the other hand, it should be very easy to test the hypothesis that Xperia phone screens are cracking due to heat generated in use or during charging, since the uncertainly of abuse is removed. It would be a quick win for Which? if it could be shown that heat generated in normal use could crack these phone screens.

Member

We’re on it Malcolm and Wavechange 🙂 Fingers crossed.

Member

Thanks Patrick. I hope you can come to a definite conclusion – one way or other.

Member

Surprised at Boots. Would have thought that such a company wouldn’t make it so difficult. No wonder people give up complaining. It is a classic fob off about warranties. I never purchase them and advise other people not to do so. The Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 cover us well. Just needs people to know what their rights are and then keep asserting them where necessary!

Member

Why are advertising rules so different to the Sale of Goods Act?

It’s okay for shops to advertise things without mentioning what they’re really made of, and that they’ll rust within a few months of buying them. Yet the Sale of Goods Act says they’re not of satisfactory quality and you can get a refund.

How can they be so different?

Member

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 covers misleading practices