/ Shopping

Are retailers refusing to honour the Sale of Goods Act?

Stop hand

If something you’ve bought turns our to be faulty, you should be able to return it to the retailer. That’s thanks to the Sale of Goods Act – but it seems some shops aren’t always allowing you to exercise those rights.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If they’re not and it’s within a reasonable time – usually three or four weeks – you can reject the item and get a full refund. If you’re out of time, you can ask for a repair or replacement.

Plus, within the first six months of purchase the onus is on the retailer to prove that the fault was not present at the time of purchase – after this time the onus switches to you, the consumer.

Does the Sale of Goods Act work for you?

But while these rights seem simple enough, putting them into practice can be tough. We’ve heard from you about retailers refusing to honour Sale of Goods Act rights – confusing their own store policies on returning goods with their statutory obligations. Wavechange told us:

‘I don’t often shop in Curry’s but I can give several examples of unsatisfactory treatment regarding recently purchased products. My personal favourite was when I was told that the Sale of Goods Act did not apply to them. On another occasion Curry’s would not accept the return of a Miele vacuum and insisted that I contacted the manufacturer. I did and received excellent treatment, knowing well that it was the responsibility of Curry’s to sort out the problem.

‘My only success with Curry’s has been to get a different manager to swap a mobile, after their repeated failure to fix a problem on a phone that I had first returned within a few weeks of purchase and had been kept for emergency use in the glove box of my car.’

When we went to Currys & PC World for comment, a spokesperson told us:

‘As a retailer we fully acknowledge our responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act and all of our store colleagues receive training on this. We will always try to resolve issues directly first but on the occasions where we do refer customers to suppliers, it is because they are best placed to achieve the quickest resolution – as detailed in our receipt wallet.’

Another commenter, Pat, told us about the camera troubles she had at a camera shop:

‘I had to return a small camera that refused to focus when in video mode. The assistant manager refused even when I pointed out the provisions under the Act. She said it had to be saleable and in the original packaging. I pointed out that was their rules not according to the Sale of Goods Act. She only refunded the money when I requested her refusal in writing so I could take them to court. THEN I had my money in record time.’

I’ve personally been lucky on the few occasions that I’ve needed to return goods, but that’s clearly not the case for many of you.

Have you ever had a problem trying to return an item under the Sale of Goods Act? Or have you found it to be a useful piece of legislation to refer to when you return goods? We’re trying to build up a picture of what’s really happening on the ground, so your comments will be valuable evidence for our research.

Comments

Some of us have been waiting a long time for a Conversation specifically about the Sale of Goods Act. Thanks very much Jayne.

The biggest problem is trying to get companies to take any responsibility for goods that are more than a year old (or whatever is the guarantee period). The usual response from a retailer is that they are out of the guarantee period. I’m sure that a Which? survey using people posing as customers would confirm this.

In my experience, shop staff are often unaware of the SOGA and one young man in Currys actually told me that it did not apply to them. 🙂 To be fair, that was a few years ago.

The big weakness of the SOGA, in my opinion, is the requirement for the customer to prove that a fault was present at the time of purchase, which requires an expert opinion. As someone who repairs my own goods if possible, I know that many faults are due to poor quality materials, including substandard electronic components.

My suggestion to anyone seeking repair or replacement of goods outside the guarantee period is to be polite and take along a printout of the relevant information on the Which? website. This is clear and easy for shop assistants to understand.

why not we are allways getting screwed by someone

Helen O'Keeffe says:
19 August 2013

I purchased an ebook through Whsmiths. When I downloaded it the font was miniscule and refused to be enlarged. I asked Whsmiths for a refund – they replied that ebooks were non refundable, as stated in terms and conditions. I went back to them with Sale of Goods act – not fit for purpose as it was unreadable. They backed down and refunded me!

It is good to hear about your success, Helen. It might encourage others to take action.

Retailers can claim that products are non-refundable, but they are still required to offer a replacement or refund for faulty goods.

I occasionally help deal with queries that Which? gets through Twitter and facebook, and I’ve seen this problem a few times: the customer service representative says that their refund policy will only allow a refund within thirty days. It seems to me that often this stems from staff confusion: many shops have a ‘change your mind within 30 days’ policy, but the staff don’t realise that this is separate to the retailer’s obligations under the Sale of Goods Act if a product is faulty, or not fit for purpose.

I agree with Wavechange – it’s well worth printing out the Which? advice to show to the shop assistant! Or send them a link if you’re emailing them. Quite a few people I’ve spoken to have done this, and the retailer has quickly realised that they need to give a refund!

Glyn Bell says:
20 August 2013

I bought a ipad charger from a small local shop and when it didn’t work they refused to give me my money back stating that their policy was printed on the counter ‘no refunds’. Eventually after a lot of protestion and me telling them they were breaking the law they have me another plug which seemed to be better quality and I took that and it worked, but I was really annoyed that they refused to refund and and embarrased I had to fight so hard to get even a replacement. He effectively accused me of lying about the plug becasue when he plugged it in it appeared to be charging, as it did with me, but it didn’t charge. i don’t think as a customer I should have to ‘prove’ that it is faulty anyway, it should be taken on trust. Is that right?

So long as you are able to prove yr case, you have
a full 6 years under common law.

This applies in England and Wales. I believe it is five years in Scotland.

The OFT produce a very good guide to the Sale of Goods Act:
http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/738369/738375/OFT002_SOGA_explained.pdf
One section explains: (to both retailer and customer)
“The law says that a customer can approach you with a claim about an item they purchased from you for up to six years from the date of sale (five years after discovery of the problem in Scotland).
This does not mean that everything you sell has to last six years from the date of purchase! It is the time limit for the customer to make a claim about an item. During this period, you are legally required to deal with a customer who claims that their item does not conform to contract (is faulty) and you must decide what would be the reasonable amount of time to expect the goods to last. A customer cannot hold you responsible for fair wear and tear. The six year period is not the same as a guarantee, but it does mean that even where the guarantee or warranty supplied with the product has ended, your customer may still have legal rights.
Complying with the law
You cannot remove a customer’s legal rights, for example by displaying a notice saying ‘we do not give refunds under any circumstances’ or ‘credit notes only in the case of faulty items’.
It is also against the law to mislead consumers about their legal rights – this could lead to a criminal prosecution under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.11”

The act says that goods should be of satisfactory quality, and this includes “durability” – explained as
“durability – the durability requirement is that the item should work or last for a reasonable time but it does not have to remain of satisfactory quality. For example, a pair of wellington boots should stay waterproof but does not have to keep its brand new appearance.”
It is difficult for an individual to assess “reasonable time” for durability, and leaving it to the retailer is not satisfactory. Which? could help here by looking at durability of common products – particularly electrical appliances – in, say, two price bands and state what a reasonable life should be without significant repair. That may then help consumers to pursue for redress.

In other conversations on this topic we have asked that guarantees (from reputable manufacturers) should be longer to match better the quality of their products, as has happened with cars (and John Lewis TVs!). You would expect a £400 washing machine to last longer than a year without attention, so let it be backed up accordingly.

BPouw says:
20 August 2013

Reasonable durability I find really problematic. Three of the 4 knobs on my Smeg gashob have broken within a year and a half. Smeg consider this normal wear and tear. My mom had a similar problem on her old hob, but after 15 years! Individual knobs sell for 10 pounds. That sounds like a nice money maker for a rubbish product to me.
Anything I can do? The proof is on me if I am not mistaken and Smeg have made their position clear. I doubt the seller will give me a better response.
I have had a similar problem on the filters of my cooker hood. I lot of products nowadays seem to be deliberately made of dubious quality, generating a lot of money in the spares business.
Not all manufacturers are equally bad, but I am sick and tired of replacing bits and bobs because the product cannot cope with normal use.

You should tackle the retailer rather than Smeg, since this is their responsibility. Even if cooker knobs are a small part of the appliance, it they are broken, the cooker is unusable. Failure of small parts often leads to expensive appliances being scrapped, which is crazy. I expect that we will see plenty of useful advice in this Conversation.

If you are unsuccessful in your efforts, you could contact a local trader who might be able to find some better quality knobs that will do the job, even if they don’t match the hob.

My cooker has had over thirty years of use and all the knobs are still in good condition.

I had a similar problem with a Belling cooker. Plastic knobs that slid over the shaft of the controller. This plastic split so you couldn’t turn the rings on. As I considered it a design fault – wrong plastic or too thin – I sent photos to Belling on email. A phone call from them and a complete set of new knobs in the post – different plastic and never had a problem since.
In this sort of situation I contact the manufacturer, rather than the retailer, as it may bring a new problem to their attention, or I may be one of many with the problem. Many manufacturers in my experience do not want unhappy customers and react well to a constructive approach.

It is a very good point about letting manufacturers know about problems, Malcolm. That was one of the reasons I contacted Karcher about my pressure washer.

Sending photos is very helpful. For a start, it helps ensure that they provide the right part. This is difficult with companies that prefer you to communicate via their Web-based forms.

My ancient Belling cooker knobs are good as new, but one of the top oven door springs broke this morning, as they do every few years. My parents had a similar cooker with the same design fault and my father was sent a pack of spare springs when he contacted the company. I inherited and used the remaining ones, and now buy them online from an Internet trader.

Anon the Mouse says:
19 August 2013

One of the “tricks” that is employed is with own store brands having no way to get an independent engineers report to claim your rights under the Sales of Goods Act after 6 months.
Bush are Argos, Technika are Tesco, etc…. purchasing an own brand item such as a TV means that engineers are unwilling to touch them.

It’s a common trick used to refuse to deal with problems under SOGA.

In another Conversation there have been reports of Kindle screens failing outside the one year guarantee period and Amazon offering a discount on a new product. I suspect that Amazon is making a profit on the new sale.

https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/amazon-kindle-broken-screens-cracked-your-rights-bbc-watchdog/

Shame the SOGA doesn’t apply to manufacturers!
Bought a Karcher pressure washer hose replacement kit from Homebase. Box says it fits all models, including mine, from 1992. An adapter is supplied which converts the outlet pipe screw socket to a plug in one.
Screw thread was different to that on mine, and when I screwed it on as far as it would go and switched on the thing flew off like a bullet. Luckily missing me.
Homebase were concerned, immediate refund anf HO buyer is going to talk to Karcher.
Karcher were not interested apart from suggesting I take the pressure washer apart and replace the outlet pipe!
Patently not as described or fit for purpose!

Some years ago, I had a Karcher pressure washer with a transparent water inlet connection, which fractured inside the machine when in use. The later models were all fitted with a non-transparent. I sent a polite letter to Karcher and explained that their choice of plastic was not suitable for the purpose and the fact that there had been a design change suggested that my observation might be correct. I received a spare part free of charge, by First Class post.

I had not used the pressure washer much but it was three years old. I don’t know whether mentioning the Sale of Goods Act helped or not, but I always do.

I forgot to mention that Karcher did not have to help me because my rights were against the retailer, but I thought it worth a try because I had bought my pressure washer a long way from home.

I presume that the SOGA is of no legal value if a retailer goes out of business, but a manufacturer might help out of goodwill, as happens very often when people have problems with cars.

If a retailer goes out of business, you can claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Sale of Goods Act against your credit card issuer if the goods cost between £100 and £30,000. Outside this price range or if you paid by debit or charge card, you can use the card network’s chargeback scheme.

Scotland is quite a separate and distinct jurisdiction in both the
civil and criminal law.

Little wonder the applicable Limitation period may be different.

Don’t forget that where goods are supplied in conjunction with a service (for example a mobile phone contract with a phone is supplied as part of the deal or a Sky box supplied for use with Sky’s television service), the relevant legislation is not the Sale of Goods Act 1979 but the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. With regard to the supply of goods, the latter has almost identical wording to the former. In most cases, it would be reasonable to expect the goods to last at least for the minimum contract duration of the service. This is relevant where a mobile phone develops a fault after 12 months but within a 24-month mobile phone contract.

I would love to know what percentage of customers attempt to get retailers to take responsibility for faulty goods outside the manufacturer’s guarantee period. I suspect it is not high and that the success rate is not good. I have actually heard people being told that nothing can be done because the guarantee has expired.

If you buy from a shop you can speak nicely to a member of staff, mention the Sale of Goods Act, ask to speak to the manager and even have another attempt on another day when other staff are on duty.

Now that many products are bought from online traders, I feel that it is much harder to get support. It is one reason why I will pay a little extra and buy from shops. (The other reason is that I can see goods before purchase.)

Jeffers says:
21 August 2013

Recently bought a kennel online, but after it had been erected husband very disappointed with quality and build. He contacted them asked for it to be collected and a full refund. They said they would do this. They collected the kennel just under a week ago. Does anyone know how long is a reasonable time to wait for refund on credit card please ?

When I have had refunds they have generally appeared in my account within 5 days. Have you checked your account Jeffers?

Jeffers says:
21 August 2013

To Jayne Lutwyche – thank you for your reply.

Jeffers says:
21 August 2013

Hi Malcolm, I check my account nearly every day ! – still waiting……

Dave says:
22 August 2013

My Dell Inspiron Laptop M5030 died yesterday of a known

manufacturing defect which causes the processor/mother board to

fail. The symptoms are seven beeps continuously sounding and a

blank screen. Impossible to switch on or off.
A little research on the internet shows it is a problem which has

probably affected thousands of computers since 2011 onward. Dell

most recently confirmed on 20 August 2013 via their dell.com

community support forums.

Although my £379 laptop computer was purchased in 2011 in a JLP

store it came with a John Lewis two year warranty and although that

expired six months ago I felt that John Lewis would treat me fairly as

many times previously they have properly considered

repair/compensation under the Sale of Goods Act.

So I was amazed, indeed stunned, when initially told by a sales

assistant that once their warranty has expired they have no further

obligation to repair the computer and told me to contact Dell directly.

I thought I was back in the past in a Comet Store not a reputable

retailer like JL. Still I persisted and insisted on my rights under the

Sale of Goods Act. I was then passed to a manager who rather than

allay my fears told me to take them to a small claims court. I told him

that as a customer I felt that should be done as a last resort when all

else had failed. He told me that it was now company policy not to

initially repair or compensate customers making Sale of Goods Act

claims in respect of electronic devices like computers. He referred

me to the John Lewis Commercial Department, Legal Services in

London for further information. He said that JL might compensate me

eventually but only if I made a claim in a Small Claims Court.

Ultimately he stated this was a cost saving exercise and most

customers don’t bother.

I have completed a which template letter and sent it by post to John

Lewis Customer Relations Department, Glasgow (recorded delivery)

seeking repair/financial compensation.

Keep us posted as to the outcome…in particular as to the
small claims track where proceedings are UNcomplicated
and not at all difficult.

My bet is other side wd simply pay up once proceedings
have been served.

Dave says:
27 August 2013

Response from John Lewis:-

Thank you for offering me the opportunity to discuss your case today. I do apologise that the computer has not enjoyed the long life we would normally expect of a Dell computer.

As discussed, I am happy to confirm the next steps. If you are happy to source an independent engineers report confirming that the computer is inherently faulty then we will of course live up to our obligations under Sale of Goods legislation. You are welcome to forward me on the report here and the cost of it will certainly be reimbursed to you should it conclude that the computer was inherently faulty.

Dave says:
22 August 2013

I also posted on John Lewis facebook and twitter accounts and have already received a request for further details via e-mail. I have sent them copies of the formal correspondence which is currently en-route to their Customer Relations Department via Royal Mail. I will keep the forum advised of developments. It’s sad to think that it is now the JLP policy simply to pay up when sued. I always thought that they were a cut above the rest but maybe times are changing and it saves them money to do it this way. However I would say that this may ultimately lose them the type of regular loyal customer who does business with them because they are seen as a very reputable and fair retailer!

‘…a very reputable and fair retailer!’

Not any more, I’ve long ago discovered that!

If bringing proceedings, it remains to be seen
whether claimant has a strong arguable case
before other side wd settle and it makes business
sense to settle IMO.

Good luck.

This might cheer you up.

In France, ‘customer service’ is an oxymoron. Some time ago I bought a cooking product which had 6 small cooking devices. One was clearly damaged. I took it back. “No problem Monsieur”, he said. He opened a new box from the display and exchanged my bad item for a perfect one from the new box.

My next experience might be applicable in the UK, and might save a lot of time. I bought a secateur in January when it was cold outside. In March, I tried it for the first time. It immediately broke. I took it back. “you have to bring it back in 3 days Monsieur”. I asked for the manager. “He is not here”. I asked for the next most senior person. Silently she took cash from the till and gave it to me. So my tip is, ask for the manager. It can work and save time.

Can you use a small claims court if the retailer is an online company with a head office in mainland Europe?

I am referring to Pixmania which sells products throughout Europe. I bought a Kenwood microwave from them in 2011 and noticed that the interior paint surface was peeling and cracking a few months ago, creating areas of exposed bare metal. Protracted correspondence and an engineer’s report which says the machine is unsafe, has produced no settlement. Pixmania says I should go to the manufacturer for a report; I don’t consider that this is independent.

North Yorkshire Trading Standards officers are now looking into the issue of whether the company is selling dangerous goods.

Like I’d alluded earlier, the United Kingdom does not have
a system of law common to all, the Scottish advocate
cannot practise in the English courts and likewise
vice versa.

The Small-Claims Track deals with most cases that are:

1. Straightforward claims with a value of not more than £5000.
2. Cases that do not need a substantial amount of pre-trial preparation.
3. Cases that should not involve the parties in large legal costs.

Unless an exception applies OR there is a contractual entitlement to costs,
an award of costs in such cases is restricted under specified Rules.

Wolf Simpson says:
25 August 2013

Problem I am having with 2 companies isnt returning them, its getting the money back for the postal costs to return them even though their own policies say I would. And as original orders were through PayPal, they dont want to deal with it either.

Ebuyer I bought a Tablet that the screen failed 4 months later & they accepted to replace it & pay P&P to send faulty one back. But replacement was faulty when it arrived, so had to send that back for another replacement. Again promised to refund P&P, month later after chasing & saying that I will never order from them again they decided to credit my account which isnt there too, claiming they cant refund via PayPal. Not replying to my comms atm, Disgusting behaviour.

Other is Evans Cycles, ordered new helmet. What I got covered in dust & not in plastic wrap. Dents & scratches all over it (shop soiled), so sent back for exchange with copy of postal receipt with returns forms. They refunded not exchange the helmet but not postal cost, chased it up & they claim they didnt get receipt. So emailed scan copy of mine & still no refund of postal cost 2 weeks later when they said they have. Also not replying to my comms.

So gonna take matters further!!

New Business Opportunity for Which that will help the readers no end. It is probably crazy, but perhaps someone may make some sense out of it.

1. Which creates a ‘Dissatisfied Customer Website’. The dissatisfied customer, who has been unable to get resolution on the first try, completes all the details of the claim. Which sends standard solicitor’s letter to company saying if the company does not immediately do the refund/repair/replace/whatever they will be be taken to court. A computer programme creates the letter from the data on the website.

2. The solicitor’s letter will probably frighten the life out of most retailers and the customer will get prompt resolution.

3. Which will get a set of interesting data to publish in the Magazine.

4. Human intervention will be needed to check and adjust the solicitor’s letter before it is sent, but it should be minimal.

5. For the cases where the matter goes to court, Which can earn some money from the fees.

6. Which could charge a small fee, until the service is deemed to be profitable.

Which will make a much better job than a Super Ombudsman, and will be quicker. Or perhaps Which should take on the role of Super Ombudsman as described above, then it could get a grant from the Government.