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General Consumer Advice

The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk for leaflets and sample letters or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454040506 for advice.

There are several laws which protect consumer rights but the main ones are the Sale of Goods Act 1979 - [see Sale of Goods Act Hub for comprehensive up to date guidance on the Sale of Goods Act] and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

Whenever you buy goods, or agree to have a service you are making a contract with a trader. The trader must provide you with goods which are of satisfactory quality. This means reasonably durable, safe, fit for their intended purpose, free from minor defects and of reasonable appearance and finish. They must also be as described to you.

All services must be:-

  • provided with reasonable care and skill.
  • provided within a reasonable time.
  • provided for a reasonable price, if a price has not already been agreed. Remember when asking for a price for a job, if you are given a QUOTATION, then that is the price you should pay; if you accept an ESTIMATE, the final price could be more, but should still be reasonable.

For details of when you are entitled to cancel a contract, select Cancelling a Contract

If you are dissatisfied with goods or services you should go back to the shop or get in touch with the trader as soon as possible. Explain your problem, identify the faults and tell the trader what you want to be done - set a deadline. If you do not get a satisfactory response to your request, write to the trader and detail the problems. If the shop is part of a chain, write to the Head Office address as well. Address these letters to the Customer Services Manager or the Chairman.

Remember, you have NO legal rights where your complaint arises from:

  • fair wear and tear
  • misuse or accidental damage
  • your decision that you no longer want the item although there is nothing wrong with it
  • faults that you knew about before you bought the goods e.g. where the goods were marked as 'shop soiled'.

If you do not get satisfaction at this stage, you should write to the trader (sending the letter by recorded delivery post) setting out the full details of your purchase, the problems or faults with the goods or service and a statement to the effect that you are REJECTING the goods. State that if you do not receive a response within 14 days then you will pursue the matter through the County Court as a Civil Claim.

When you buy something which is faulty at the time of sale, you are entitled to a repair or replacement. The trader is entitled to refuse either of these where it can be shown that the cost of doing so would be excessive in comparison with the alternative. Whatever remedy is agreed, it should not result in undue inconvenience to you the customer.

If a repair or replacement is not practical, you have the option to request
a full or partial refund, depending on what is reasonable.

Normally, it is your responsibility, as the buyer, to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of sale. However, in the first six months from the date of purchase, when you return goods to request a repair or replacement, (or following that, a refund) you do not have to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of sale. There is an assumption that the goods were faulty unless the trader can prove otherwise. If you opt for a refund rather than a repair or replacement, the onus will remain on you to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of sale.

You can make a claim up to six years from the date of sale. This does not mean that the goods should last for six years, but is just the absolute limit for making a claim.

If you are unable to resolve the situation with the trader, it may be necessary to go to court to resolve it. If you intend to pursue the matter through the Courts, you may have to pay an independent expert to examine the goods or service and compile a report. The cost of this may be awarded to you by the Court.

The maximum claim that can be heard by the Small Claims Court is £5,000.
Trading Standards can help in some circumstances.

You are entitled to extra legal rights when buying goods online and over the telephone, known as distance selling. Follow the links below for more guidance on buying goods online:

Internet, mail order and telephone shopping advice

Internet shopping advice

Guidance for property buying and selling

Following the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 guidance produced last year for property sales businesses, the Office Of Fair Trading has developed two short consumer advice sheets: one for homebuyers and a separate one for home sellers.

Buying a property

Selling a property

The information leaflets and sample letters below are included for you to download and provide more help and information. These and other advice and help can also be found at the Office of Fair Trading or the Chartered Trading Standards Institute

Independent Consumer Advice

Which? are a registered charity and consumer rights group who have been offering independent advice and campaigning on behalf of consumers for more than 50 years. They are now the largest consumer body in the UK, with over 617,000 members that subscribe to their magazine, and over 250,000 online subscribers - and this is constantly growing. Visit them online at http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/ and at their new dedicated mortgage advice service.

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