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Brief cases: goods bought abroad prove to be faulty

How do you get your money back if you buy goods abroad that turn out to have a problem when you get them home? That’s the problem Catherine Ward posed when she came to us for legal advice.

Catherine bought an 18-carat gold emerald ring as part of a set costing £1,935, while on holiday in Colombia. But the ring had a fault, invisible to the naked eye, that made it unwearable.

The problem was only detected when Catherine got home to England and took the ring to a jeweller to have the emeralds authenticated.

What the fault was and how much it cost to repair

Catherine Ward bought an 18-carat gold ring only to find out it was unwearableThe jeweller found a fault that had caused a chip in one of the emeralds, which meant Catherine couldn’t wear the ring for fear of causing further damage or losing one of the stones.

The jeweller estimated that it would cost £1,200 to have the ring remade to prevent the stones damaging each other.

It would have been difficult to seek a remedy from the seller in Colombia so, as Catherine had bought the ring using a credit card, she asked its issuer, the Co-operative Bank, for help. But Catherine says it refused and suggested she pay for the repairs herself. At this point she came to Which? Legal for help.

What we advised Catherine

ring_retOur lawyers confirmed that even though Catherine had bought the ring in Colombia she could still go to the Co-operative Bank with the claim. We suggested she write to the bank again, this time stating her legal position and requesting it offer remedy as it had to.

The Co-operative Bank agreed to pay the repair cost and Catherine got back the remade ring at the end of 2014, a year after her trip to Colombia.

What the law says about how you can make a claim

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 makes the credit card issuer liable, along with the seller, if there has been a breach of contract or misrepresentation. This applies to goods worth more than £100 and up to £30,000, where you paid at least part of the price on a credit card.

The card issuer would be liable to offer a solution to you in such a situation and you could seek either a refund, or a repair or replacement of the item.

For any purchases made abroad, your rights would be subject to local law, which would differ from UK laws.

But the card issuer would probably consider whether the circumstances amounted to a breach of contract or misrepresentation under UK law.

Have you bought goods on a credit card and had to reclaim the cost from your provider? What was the reaction?


Which Legal Service told me that where Section 75 applies to a transaction abroad, further UK legislation also applies to the transaction, e.g. the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. I understand that this is because the lender, who is a jointly liable party, is UK-based, even if the retailer is subject to local legislation.

This raises an interesting question – to me anyway. If you buy something without expertise who is responsible for that decision? Could the ring not have been authenticated when and where it was bought by another jeweller? Presumably Catherine had concerns otherwise would not have taken it to a UK jeweller. It might be more sensible not to purchase high-value items like this without knowledge when you cannot go back to the seller. The point is that it is all those who (in this case) use the Co-operative bank who will pay for the error. I wonder just where we should draw the line between deceptive transactions and personal responsibility? Not a criticism, simply a comment.

You are right about personal responsibility. We would not dream of buying anything abroad unless we were prepared to take the consequences of our purchase. You have to weigh up the cost against failure of the item. If you are worried about authenticity, then don’t buy it. Other people should not be expected to fund bad purchase choices.

There are many places abroad that will sell “genuine” items that you know are really fake. Does Catherine’s experience mean everyone will be claiming their money back?

What about all those Rolex watches that originated on a Thai market stall? Are they all entitled to be repaired or refunded at a cost far exceeding the price paid for them?