Your rights when you shop
‘this does not affect your statutory rights’ ever thought what this means when you see it on your receipt or when you see it on a notice in a shop? It relates to your rights when you shop. When you buy something you are entering into an unspoken contract in the law which you are given a set of implied rights known as your statutory rights.
The most important statutory rights fall under two sets of legislation – the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. The Sale of Goods Act was later amended by the Sale & Supply of Goods Act 1994, and then again by the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002.
The law currently states that a consumer has the right to goods that are deemed to be of a satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and ‘as described’. Satisfactory quality implies that the goods are free from any faults or manufacturing defects, safe, resilient and long-lasting, and have a satisfactory appearance and finish.
Fit for purpose entails that the goods are fit for the specific purpose for which they were made. Examples of fit for purpose include waterproof or water resistant goods. The term ‘as described’ means that the goods on offer should accurately concur with the description applied to them. This includes descriptions such as the size of colour of the goods. Fit for purpose also applies to second hand goods except the law states that it is reasonable that expectation about the durability and performance of the goods should be lowered.
Goods bought on sale with stated defects cannot demand a refund. A consumer cannot expect a full refund and has no grounds for complaint if they were provided with information about any faults before purchasing. It is expected that consumers should also examine their goods before making a purchase. Any faults or damage incurred by the consumer cannot be taken into consideration.
In UK law, when purchasing from a shop, a consumer is not automatically entitled to a refund if they simply change their mind. Many shops will offer a refund, alternative or replacement purely as a gesture of goodwill, alongside proof of purchase. Unless stated, proof of purchase does not necessarily mean a till receipt – bank and card statements can also be used.
When starting a complaint it’s best to not go militant. The first easy step is to go back to the shop or phone the call centre and explain the problem and your suggested resolution.
If the store won’t help write a complaint letter and send it to the head office. If it needs to go to a local office, it’ll be passed on. Send all letters by recorded delivery, so you can prove they received it, and always save a copy.
If you used a credit card to pay for all or part of a purchase that costs between £100 and £30,000, your card issuer’s equally liable for anything that goes wrong thanks to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
If all else fails and the shop hasn’t given you a satisfactory response, don’t be disheartened – you have a legal right to fair service – though the only person who can force action is a County Court judge (Sheriff Court in Scotland).
Before you get legal, you’re expected to try to resolve things directly, and ideally send a ‘letter before action’ to say you are going to take them to court. If you don’t try, the judge is likely to look unfavourably on your case, so always use the steps above first. If you are not sure how to approach the courts you can also ask The Citizens Advice Bureau.