OK, this is the first in a set of brief guides to parts of law that affect us all. The first request was about 'consumer' law. I'll try and make it as easy to understand as I can.Contract Law
Every single day, each and every one of us enters into a contract of some form. When we buy goods or pay for a service (such as having a new kitchen fitted for example) we have certain rights and the seller/provider has certain obligations that they must adhere to. These rights and obligations are governed by statues, or laws. They are:Sale
of Goods Act 1979 (SGA 1979) (as amended by the Sale
and Supply of Goods Act 1994 (SSGA 1994) and Sale
and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002), which implies terms into Sale
of goods contracts; e.g. the Sale
of a kettle.
Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (SGSA 1982), which implies terms into a contract for goods and services; e.g. having a new kitchen fitted (I'll cover that in a separate post);
Consumer Credit Act 1974 (CCA 1974), which regulates credit agreements (I'll cover these in a separate post too).
The main piece of legislation in this area is SGA 1979, which applies only to contracts for the Sale
of goods. s2(1) provides that a contract for the Sale
of goods requires:
- a Sale or agreement to sell;
- property in tangible, movable goods (basically anything that can be touched and taken away);
- "consideration" at least partly in the form of money (i.e. you pay for the goods).
There are certain terms that are implied into every contract for the Sale
of goods. These are:
So, what should you do when you buy something?
- that the seller owns the goods and has a right to sell them (this term can NEVER be excluded);
- in sales by description, goods must correspond with their description;
- the goods must be of satisfactory quality and must be fit for the purpose for which they are commonly sold OR a particular purpose that the buyer has made known to the seller e.g. hi-fi speakers should allow you to listen to music played via a stereo system, but if you've asked "will they work with my Kenwood stereo system?', and been told yes, but when you get them home they don't, then they were not fit for the purpose specified.
When you get home, check that the item works as soon as possible. This should ideally be done within 7 days in case you have a complaint about the goods you have bought, leave it longer and providing the goods were faulty when you bought them your right to a full refund may be lost. However you're still entitled to a replacement, a reduction, or a credit note.
If the goods are faulty, take them back within 6 months and the shop has to prove they WERE NOT faulty when you bought them. After 6 months YOU must prove they were faulty when you bought them.
By law you have up to six years to make a complaint. This doesn't mean that goods must last six years, it simply means that they must last what most people would consider to be a Ďreasonable' length of time. Normal day to day wear and tear will generally mean that you won't be able to complain. However, if there was a fault on the item, you will be able to. If there is an argument over whether the goods are faulty or not Ė the burden of proof is on YOU to prove that they were.
As was mentioned in the request for this particular area of law, what if you take the item back to the shop and they tell you that it's nothing to do with them, go to the manufacturer?
If the item was faulty when you bought it, then the retailer MUST sort it out for you. Your "contract" was with them, not the manufacturer. They are aware of this, but if they continue to try to fob you off, stand your ground and ask to speak with the manager! If you still get no joy - go above their heads! Get the address of Head Office and go direct!!
If you get to this stage, remember to take copies of any communication and where possible, send it registered post so that they cannot deny getting your complaint
N.B. If buying goods from firms based abroad, beware, UK laws WILL NOT cover you.Second hand goods and goods bought from shops in the sales.
Second hand goods and goods bought from shops in the sales still follow the same rules: if they're faulty then you can still return them. Just because you've bought Sale
or second hand goods doesn't mean you can't return them. They still must be of satisfactory quality, but the price must be taken into account. If, however, you are made aware of any faults when you buy the goods, you can't return them later because of that fault.
One common misconception applies to second hand cars - "sold as seen".
If buying from a trader, your rights are the same as always. However, certain factors must be taken into account.
A car should be fit to use on the road, be in a condition that reflects its age and price and be reasonably reliable. "Sold as seen" has no basis in law: your Sale
of Goods Act rights still apply.
The only difference comes with private sales. You only have a right that the product is correctly described and the owner has the right to sell it. Here it's "caveat emptor" or let the buyer beware. If the seller says nothing and no description is given of any problem and you buy it, then that's it Ė even if it doesn't do what you thought it would. However, unless stated, you have a right to expect that the car will pass an MOT.