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The confusion around faulty goods

Robot toy

There’s still confusion over your legal rights when returning faulty goods, so we’ve built a handy tool that will create a bespoke claim for your refund, repair or replacement.

If you bought a product from a high street store and it developed a fault after just three months, who would you contact to return it? Nearly nine in ten people in our survey said they’d prefer to return it to the store, rather than the manufacturer.

Most people said they’d go to the retailer because they’d find it easier than returning the item to the manufacturer. But only a fifth of them knew it was their legal right to return the product to the retailer.

A quarter were unaware of how long they had to demand a full refund if an electrical appliance turns out to be faulty the first time they use it. You have 30 days under the Consumer Rights Act.

So to help with all this confusion, we’ve built a free faulty goods tool that anyone can use to create a bespoke letter of complaint to claim a refund, repair or replacement.

Rights outside of warranty

Nearly four in ten people said that if an electrical appliance develops a fault outside it’s one year manufacturer’s guarantee, they wouldn’t have any legal rights. You do, but after owning something for six months, the burden of proof flips. The retailer no longer needs to prove that you caused the fault. It’s now up to us, the customer, to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase. Only a fifth of people in our survey were aware they had to do this.

And getting proof of this is easier said than done. In the past you’d nip down to your local repair shop and get the opinion of an expert to prove your claim.

I’ve had a look and I’ve asked friends and family – none of us can find a local repair shop. Maybe there was a grievously under-reported mass emigration of local repair men? Maybe the relentless advance of technology means products are obsolete as soon as they’re faulty? Then again, modern technology can be helpful as you could build evidence from reports others have made online about the same product.

I’d be interested to hear how you’ve put together proof in the past when you’ve had a faulty product. Did you get an independent report from an expert? Or did you take a different tack?

I hope our new faulty goods tool is useful – let us know if you’ve achieved success with it. And fingers crossed you won’t have to use it!

Comments
Member

Following on from malcolm .s post Natakie , Sony are not the company they were , due to a downturn in world sales of TV,s they have now outsourced their manufacture in places like China . As a result and to save money the quality has gone through the floor . This is a recent occurrence not publicized in the medias but known in tech circles . Your fault is a common one with 1000,s complaining , and its an 80 % chance its the power supply module which has down-market capacitors fitted to it . This is a built -in design fault ,and as such , take malcolm,s advice and ask for a another replacement or your money back . The problem with the replacements is that so many are returned that they send out refurbished ones instead of brand new replacements . So legally its Sony,s legal requirement to give your money back as its a design problem , but knowing their T+C they will try to fob you off but British law dictates in cases like yours you must be given your money back.

Member

Unless the TV was purchased directly from Sony, the legal responsibility lies with the retailer, not the manufacturer. It does not matter if there is a design fault. The manufacturer would only be responsible if they had recalled a product because it was unsafe. There is also no requirement to provide a refund on goods where the guarantee has expired. Under the Consumer Rights Act you have a legal to reject goods that are unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described and get a full refund within 30 days of purchase.

Although manufacturers have no legal responsibility, they are often more helpful than retailers.

Member

Duncan – Sorry, but I should have mentioned that there is still the possibility of a refund if a retailer has attempted a repair and it has failed. The case we are discussing is complicated because the TV has already been replaced. I don’t know whether the retailer would be allowed an attempt to repair the new TV.

Member

I think you are over-stating the consumers legal protection, Malcolm. My understanding is that the six year period (five in Scotland) limits the time during which a consumer can ask a retailer to take action if there is a problem with their purchase.

The Consumer Rights Act effectively provides protection for both consumers and retailers. My understanding is that after six months, it is the responsibility to be able to demonstrate that a fault existed in a product at the time of manufacture. As Adam says in his introduction: “It’s now up to us, the customer, to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase.” This is explained in more detail in one of the links he has provided.

The Department of Business Innovation & Skills produced guidance for business around the time the Consumer Rights Act was introduced: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/The%20sale%20and%20supply%20of%20goods_ALL_BIS_GOODS_GUIDANCE_SEP15.pdf The information on the ‘reverse burden of proof’ makes useful reading.

In my view, our focus of attention should be on the retailers who tell us that nothing can be done if goods are outside the guarantee period or wrongly refer us to the manufacturer. To pursue a claim regarding lack of durability, the retailer obviously has the right to demand that goods are inspected to eliminate the possibilities of abuse and problems arising from fair wear & tear (which should take account of the purchase price), and to determine the nature of the problem.

Member

Design defects -present in the product from the beginning,even before it is manufactured , in that something in the design is inherently unsafe- manufacturing defects -those that occur in the course of a product , manufacture or assembly -“res ipsa loquitur ” . In this case its a DESIGN fault , something the retailer would know nothing about -UNLESS advised by the manufacturer , in Common law its the manufacturers liability . That the Consumer Rights Laws in the UK are Skewed and “weasel words” used should not prevent the plaintiff going to court and winning his case , no if ,buts ,maybe,s – 1000,s of people in the UK/US ALL complain of the same fault –does that not “ring a bell ” in relation to other Convo,s ? . The part could be removed by a qualified expert , examined , determined to be bad/cheap design and case won.

Member

There seems, in my view, to be a misconception that has been perpetuated and one I have asked Which? to comment on in the past. “Fault” as in “faulty goods” is not a term used either in SoGA or CRA. They use the term “contract” as in a failure to meet contract terms. These terms include a number of things, one of which is “Quality”. Under “Quality” are a number of items including “Durability”. Hence if a product does not prove to have acceptable durability – stops working properly before a reasonable time – then it fails to meet the contract and thus remedy is required by both SoGA (for items purchased pre Oct 2015) or CRA thereafter.

As far as the 30 days “rule” is concerned as I understand it this is the time when the consumer has the right to a full refund if an item proves to have a defect. But after that, and for up to 6 years, claims can be made and redress required.

We have a framework of legal protection that consumer groups should make absolutely clear, so we know how to approach retailers (with whom our contract usually rests and who are legally obliged to provide a suitable remedy) and obtain redress that is fair to both parties.

It may well be that Natakie has used the manufacturers guarantee to get a remedy. It is usual, I believe, for a guarantee to be effective from the date the product was first purchased, even when a replacement product has been supplied.

Another conversation has the subject “Will Prime Minister May be a pro-consumer Prime Minister”. One way to “restore trust” – I’d suggest rather “provide reassurance” – would be to ensure consumers can more easily get justifiable redress when they have a problem with a product or service.

Which? could, I believe, do much more to ensure steps are taken to achieve this. unless, perish the thought, my understanding of SoGA and CRA is totally wrong in which case perhaps they would say.

When we buy a product, use it correctly and don’t abuse it, we should be entitled to expect it to last a reasonable time taking account of the price we pay. That is what “durability” is all about and I want to see the playing field leveled so consumers get a fair deal without unreasonable cost or inconvenience. I would have thought that, as a guardian of consumers’ rights, Which? would surely have this as one of their top priorities?

Member

I strongly agree about design faults, Duncan. When I used to do faultfinding on consumer electronics, mainly TV and radio, design faults were common knowledge and well documented. My last car was gradually working through the list of known problems with that model.

I am disappointed that the Consumer Rights Act did not focus on the problem of design faults. I wonder if those who compiled the document have much experience of faultfinding. Service engineers know about design faults and often carry appropriate replacement parts in their vans.

Which gives useful advice:

After the first six months the burden is on you to prove that the product was faulty at the time of delivery.

In practice, this may require some form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range.

We have to be careful about using information from websites because frequent failures are not always caused by the same defective component. You will be aware of this but those who rarely do repairs might not.