/ Home & Energy

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?


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.

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).

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.

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

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!

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?

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 covers misleading practices

Strange for me to appear to be taking the side of big business but …..

Is it always possible for a manufacturer, retailer or an independent expert to determine if a fault was “present at the time of manufacture”?

If I made and sold something, does the law protect me from the type of consumer who abuses the item and then claims a refund?

Not everything we buy can survive being sat on, drowned or chewed by a disgruntled Leyton Orient supporter.

Furthermore, the word ‘consumer’ is too often taken to imply ‘honest’ or ‘victim’.

It is my understanding that the retailer would then claim from the manufacturer.

If you made something that the customer abused and you could prove it yes the law, in particular the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 would cover you.

TCC, one point that has not been explained, as far as I can see, is how retailers claim from manufacturers. Some commenters side with the retailer, on the basis that they themselves have to fund claims that are successfully made under the Sale of Goods Act. What a shame! They are the innocent party. Well, I believe they should, and probably do, have a claim against their supplier, so should not end up out of pocket. But secondly, they are not innocent if they sell you a defective product. They have chosen to stocjk that product that they sell at a profit. They have chosen to deal with that manufacturer. They are responsible for the way they have chosen to trade and make money out of their customers.

The obvious solution is for the manufacturer to take responsibility for claims about faulty goods, rather than the retailer. Current law makes it clear that the retailer is responsible for claims and not the manufacturer. The way round this is to have push for products with longer manufacturers’ warranties. Car manufacturers are leading the way and others are following.

Since the manufacturer has to pay for warranty repairs, longer warranties should reverse the trend towards building goods that are not made to last or be repairable. Most retailers are not set up to tackle repairs, so it makes sense to deal direct with the manufacturer. It’s what many retailers ask us to do anyway, even if the retailer is responsible for handling claims.

Bib1 makes an important point about establishing whether a fault has been caused by misuse. Under current legislation it is the responsibility of the retailer to prove that the damage was caused by the owner in the first six months and one day later, the owner has the responsibility to prove that the fault was present at the time of manufacture. Durability is not adequately defined. Even if longer warranties become standard, there is still the problem of distinguishing between fair wear & tear and damage due to abuse. Perhaps in case of dispute, the product could be examined by an independent expert. I believe that the independent expert should take into account evidence of well established design faults when adjudicating on a case.

While there is apparent merit in attaching liability to the manufacturere rather than the retailer, at least we can usually get hold of the retailer in this country, whereas finding out who manufactured something abroad, and then pinning them down through their local jurisdiction, would in many cases be nigh on impossible and not worth the candle. And does “the manufacturer” mean the company that put together most of the parts, or the company whose smart badge or label is on the front of the product? Retailers might moan about the liability placed upon them but I go along with Malcolm on this: it goes with the territory. Though it irks them no doubt, at least they can more easily deal with the manufacturer/supplier/wholesaler than the purchaser can, and in many cases they would have a way of making things awkward [through stopping payments for goods supplied but not yet paid for, or in the last resort terminating their trading relationship].

David Smith says:
12 January 2015

Here’s another perspective on the relationship between retailers and manufacturers, and the different approaches taken to inherently defective goods. I bought a house recently that has a four year old electric AGA. The parts manufacturers gave a five year warranty but the retailer offered a labour warranty for one year. The core wiring of the AGA burnt out within the warranty period and the retailer obtained the replacement parts under the warranty but charged for call-out and labour for the work. Whilst the engineer who did the repair expressed surprise that such a basic element should fail so quickly (given the long life expected of an AGA) the retailer refused to accept any obligation to cover the labour cost, citing (mainly) that his contract makes the one year warranty clear. Manufacturers are not in the habit of warranting goods beyond a reasonable period to cover inherent defects, so why then do retailers consider it acceptable to avoid their corresponding obligation? Pre-contract resolution of this would have been the best approach, but I doubt that any single customer would make any headway against this widespread practice.

David, the Sale of Goods Act has a requirement under the “Quality” clause that goods should be “Durable”. I see this as not necessarily requiring a pre-existing fault to be proven, just that in this case it would be “unreasonable” to expect an Aga to burn out so quickly. You could point this requirement out to the retailer, the manufacturer and, if that fails, consider taking it to the small claims court. If you belong to Which? Legal they will no doubt give you professional advice, but I would not let it drop.

pat Pick says:
29 June 2015

I bought a pair of perspiration glasses at the end of may, but on the 28th of June the lense fell out and I can’t find it anywhere, can I have it replaced or my money back please

You have the right to a replacement lens. Ask the seller.

Purchased glasses for £840 from Optical Express following their eye test on 28th May.
Glasses too strong, unable to wear them to drive home after collecting them felt dizzy, lenses blurred & my vision out of focus.
Next day complained, told to “Persevere new script takes time to adjust”

A private eye test elsewhere on 18th June – prove too strong.

Told O/EX who repeat test 5th July. Their new script also prove too strong, and I handed useless glasses back to O/EX who retained them on 5th July.

Complain to store for refund – rejected, Told Manager I want to exercise my short term right rejecting goods unfit for purpose, and I’m dissatisfied with quality.

4 months on still in dispute followed O/EX complaint procedure, rejected over & over again, CEO unhelpful, OCCS contacted them, negative response.

Ever Since, been wearing out of date glasses script from last year – unsuitable, causing eye irritation problems!

Opticians only offer is to replace lenses – unacceptable, their error could have damaged my eye site had I taken their “professional advice” !

What are my legal rights please ?

O/EX say they have met all their contractual obligations, also the offer to replace the lenses is correct and tell me I am not entitled to a refund?

If an independent eye test shows that the original prescription was substantially incorrect, that the glasses prescribed met that prescription (or worse) and your eyesight would not have changed that much in the time between tests, then the original lenses were not fit for purpose and you should be able to claim as such under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You will need a report from an optician to support your case. You should be entitled to the correct prescription lenses or a refund. Optical Express may prefer the former to fit the frames they supplied.

Janice – I would also suggest that you see if you can get an appointment at a hospital that has an ophthalmology department for a proper examination of your eyes and the glasses prescribed for you. This would be a better and more independent basis on which to challenge Optical Express’s original examination and prescription. A hospital consultation might also indicate any special considerations that affect your eyes or vision. You would probably have to arrange this through your GP.

In most high street opticians the optometrists are self-employed consultants who do not necessarily practise full-time at any one establishment and provide services to other opticians. This does not mean they are any less competent but it could mean that it is difficult to get an independent opinion or one that conflicts with another optometrist’s assessment and prescription, whereas a hospital consultant or specialist will have no commercial interests affecting their opinion.

In my experience optometrists are highly professional but as with most professions there is a natural reluctance to comment adversely on the work of other practitioners. A hospital specialist would not necessarily be more qualified or more experienced but would approach the examination in an academic manner. Hospitals also have excellent up-to-date equipment and very wide-ranging experience of eye conditions and vision impairments together with immediate access to colleagues who could also make an assessment or give advice.

Laura C says:
14 October 2021

I had/have the same issue, but with glasses from Specsavers. I’d had them for 4 months before one of the arms popped out of the socket in a way where just the arm couldn’t be replaced, I’d need a whole new frame. Specsavers tried to charge me £40+ for this, so I refused, because it’s ridiculous to be charged for product being bad quality. Less than a month later, the other arm popped out. Both have been super glued in, which works to an extent, but they sit looser on my face, and they were already a bit too big to begin with. They’ve fallen off my face so many times now, and it’s so frustrating because they pressured me to get new frames in the first place when I just wanted new lenses with an updated prescription in my old frames, but somehow that’s more expensive than a new frame AND lenses.

Instead, I’ll take my business elsewhere. Specsavers are the ones losing out on my money long term by being cheap about a fault product