UK Consumer Rights
As a consumer you have a number of rights when it comes to buying goods from a store or supplier. Knowing these rights will allow you to take advantage of a situation when a supplier is acting unlawfully and your money is on the line – knowing your rights will stop you from getting run-over by aggressive suppliers.
Do I need some form of ‘contract’?
Despite the word ‘contract’, and contrary to popular belief, a signed written contract is not required in order for these obligations to exist in law.
A contract may also be formed verbally or by implication, simply by one party making an offer and the other party accepting that offer – even purchasing an item in a shop, or getting into a taxi are examples of this. Of course it must be proved that both offer and acceptance were clearly communicated and understood, that both parties were legally capable of making those promises, and there was something being offered in exchange for the promise (usually money).
This was highlighted in the case of Donoghue vs. Stevenson in 1928, often considered the birthplace of UK Consumer Rights, and one that has set precedent ever since.
The Sale of Goods Act 1979
This is the most important and key point of reference for understanding your rights as a consumer, particularly when it involves buying goods in the high street.
The act runs alongside three statutory rights as a consumer:
• The seller must have the right to sell the item and to be able to transfer full ownership to you.
• The item must to conform exactly to that description or sample supplied by the seller.
• The goods should be of “satisfactory quality”.
If any of these rights are broken then you can demand a refund on your goods, and the seller must oblige to do so, otherwise they are acting unlawfully.
What are my rights after purchasing second hand goods?
This is a slightly trickier area as buying second hand goods can come with a lot of risks. For a start, the law assumes that, upon buying a second hand item, the consumer is aware of the risks that the product may not be quite up to scratch. The reduced price reflects the potential for faults to occur.
Second hand items must fit the description the seller provided. If you are unhappy with the product as the description was false, then you are entitled to a refund – this process will normally be taken through a small claims court in order to re-coop your money.