When Sofaland told Margaret her damaged sofa was due to ‘wear and tear’ she refused to believe it and came to Which? Legal for advice. Together, we managed to get her a £570 refund.
Which? Legal member Margaret Green came to us for help after being told that damage to her 18-month-old sofa was due to her not looking after it.
Margaret bought the £825 sofa from Sofaland in January 2013, but after just a few months saw a mark on the arm that seemed to be spreading.
When she asked Sofaland to inspect the problem it said the sofa was out of warranty and it was up to her to show there was a manufacturing defect.
Our advice for Margaret
Margaret came to us and our lawyers advised her to get an expert report. This found the leather on the sofa was unsuitable for wearing parts, such as the arms. Sofaland rejected the report and claimed the problem was because she hadn’t cared for the sofa properly.
Sofaland suggested getting a report from Homeserve. Margaret was reluctant as Homeserve carried out repairs for Sofaland, but agreed as the firm wouldn’t use any another expert.
In fact, Homeserve’s report confirmed that the leather on the arm was weak. This didn’t meet a legal requirement that it should be durable.
Sofaland offered a £350 discount on a new sofa or to repair part of the damage, which it still maintained was due to wear and tear. This wasn’t acceptable to Margaret, so we advised her to issue court proceedings. The court recommended mediation and she was awarded a £570 refund.
What does the law say?
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 the sofa had to be free from defects, satisfactory in appearance and finish, and durable.
As it hadn’t lasted as long as it should have, the retailer was in breach of contract and Margaret was entitled to seek a solution. This would be to have it repaired or replaced for free. It’s up to the seller to decide which, and this may depend on which is cheaper. If neither is possible, you can seek damages, or a partial refund which would include a deduction for your use of the item.
It may sometimes be possible to get a full refund for a faulty item, but this must be in a reasonable time after purchase (typically three to four weeks). It may also be possible to ask for a repair under a manufacturer guarantee given with the item – this would be in addition to your rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979.