If there is something wrong with what you buy, tell the seller as soon as possible.

If you are unable to return to the shop within a few days of making the purchase, it is a good idea to telephone to let it know about your complaint. Make a note of the conversation and to whom you spoke.

If you tell the seller promptly that the goods are faulty and you do not want them you should be able to get your money back. As long as you have not legally accepted the goods you can still reject them – that is, refuse to accept them. One of the ways you accept goods is by keeping them, without complaint, after you have had a reasonable time to examine them. What is reasonable is not fixed; it depends on all the circumstances. But normally you can at least take your purchase home and try it out. If, however, you delay in examining what you have bought, or in telling the seller about a fault, then you may lose your right to reject.

Note that if you signed an acceptance note on receiving goods this does not mean you have signed away your right to reject. You still have a reasonable time to examine them. Letting the seller try to put faulty goods right also has no effect on your rights – if the repair fails, you still have any right to reject that you had when you agreed to the repair.

Once you have, in the legal sense, accepted goods, you lose your right to a full refund. You can only claim compensation, and you have to keep your claim to a reasonable minimum. Normally you have to accept an offer to put the goods right, or the cost of a repair. But if the goods are beyond economical repair you are entitled to a replacement, or the cash value of a replacement if none is offered.

Some goods have manufacturers’ guarantees. These are useful when your statutory rights no longer apply. Claiming under guarantees often results in fewer quibbles than relying on your statutory rights, provided you complain within the guarantee period. Use this link for more information on guarantees: trading standards

Do not be put off by traders trying to talk their way out of their responsibilities.  

The law says it is up to the seller to deal with complaints about defective goods or other failures to comply with your statutory rights. So do not accept the excuse that “it’s the manufacturer’s fault”. But you may have additional rights against the manufacturer under a guarantee.

  • You have the same rights when you buy sale goods as at any other time; the seller cannot get away with notices saying there are no refunds on sale goods. Think twice before you buy from a trader who displays a notice like this. It is against the law, and local authorities can prosecute the trader. Use this link for more information on exclusion clauses
  • You have the same rights even if you lose your receipt. A receipt, however, is useful evidence of where and when you bought the goods.
  • You may be able to claim compensation if you suffer loss because of faulty goods; for example, if a faulty iron ruins your clothes.
  • Presents

If you received the faulty goods as a present, you may have to ask the person who bought them to complain for you, or to authorise you in writing to complain on his or her behalf. Only the buyer has the statutory rights described earlier.

Returning goods

You are not legally obliged to return faulty goods to the seller at your own expense. If an item is bulky and would be difficult or expensive to return to the shop, ask the seller to collect it. But this does not apply where you complain about faults after having accepted the goods, or if you got the goods as a present.

Private sales & auctions

You have fewer rights if you buy privately  – that is, not from a trader – or at an auction. But if you are injured by defective goods, or they cause property damage costing you £275 or more, you have certain rights regardless of how they were bought or whether they were a gift. If in doubt seek further advice: http://www.oft.gov.uk/html/consume/cmpl-adv.htm#help

You have no real grounds for complaint if you:  

  • were told about the fault;
  • examined the item when you bought it and should have seen the fault;
  • did the damage yourself;
  • made a mistake when purchasing the item;
  • simply changed your mind about the item.

Under these circumstances you are not entitled to anything, but many shops will help out of goodwill. It is always worth asking.

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