Information is available from the Trading Standards Institute to help consumers. Please note the county council is not responsible for this information.
In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you important rights when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services and digital content.
The law can be confusing. This guide offers a clear explanation of the rights you have when a trader supplies goods to you and the remedies you have if those goods are faulty.
What is a contract?
The law only applies to contracts between a consumer and a trader.
A contract is a legally binding agreement between you and the trader. A contract is formed when you make an offer to buy, the trader accepts your offer, the price is agreed between you and you both intend to make the contract legally binding. The rules of the contract are called 'terms', such as the price of the goods or delivery arrangements and those that are imposed by the law, referred to as your 'statutory rights'. Contracts can be written, spoken and even implied by conduct - for example, you may select goods in a supermarket and pay for them at a self-service checkout; no words are spoken but it is a contract all the same. The 'Unfair terms in consumer contracts & notices' guide gives more information on how a contract is formed and when the terms of a contract may be unfair to you.
Which contracts does the law apply to?
Most contracts where a trader supplies you with goods are included, but they are split into four distinct types:
CONTRACTS FOR THE HIRE OF GOODS
A trader gives or agrees to give possession of the goods to you along with the right to use them, subject to the terms of the contract and for a period of time set out in the contract. The goods that you might consider hiring are many and varied, including cars, power tools and special occasion wear.
HIRE PURCHASE AGREEMENTS
A trader hires goods to you and you pay by instalments. You have the option to buy the goods, if you have complied with the terms of the contract. The most common example of the use of hire purchase agreements is to buy a car.
CONTRACTS FOR THE TRANSFER OF GOODS
A trader transfers ownership of goods to you in return for payment using something other than money, such as offering your goods in exchange for a trader's goods. Money has not changed hands but it is still a contract.
Some contracts may involve a trader supplying you with goods, digital content, and/or a service. These are called 'mixed contracts' and examples include taking your car for a service that involves new parts being fitted or arranging for a trader to supply and install anti-virus software to your laptop. The 'Supply of services: your consumer rights' and 'Supply of digital content: your consumer rights' guides give more information on the rights and remedies you have for the other parts of a mixed contract.
What statutory rights do you have?
The law sets out what you are entitled to expect from the goods that are supplied by a trader. These are commonly referred to as your 'statutory rights'. If goods are faulty or they do not 'conform to the contract' then you will have certain rights. The key rights are highlighted in bold in this section.
In the first instance, a trader must have the right to supply the goods to you. If they did not, perhaps they did not actually own the goods they sold to you, then you have the right to reject them (return them for a refund). The section 'What if your statutory rights are not met?' explains what this is.
You have the right to expect that the goods are of satisfactory quality. This means that the goods meet a standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking account of any description applied, the price (if relevant) and all other relevant circumstances. The state and condition of goods, their fitness for purpose, appearance and finish, safety, durability and freedom from minor defects are all important factors when considering their quality. Public statements (such as those in advertising or on labelling) made by the trader, the producer or their representative about the goods, must be accurate and can also be taken into account when deciding if goods are of satisfactory quality.
If a trader made you aware (perhaps they told you or there was a warning on a ticket attached to the goods) that the goods had a fault, or if a fault was obvious and you ought to have noticed it, then you cannot later claim that the goods are not of satisfactory quality. For example, if trousers are sold at a discounted price because of a faulty zip, you cannot later return the trousers and claim the zip is faulty. However, you still have rights if the goods have a different fault.
If you make a trader aware that you want goods to be fit for a particular purpose - even if it is something that they are not usually supplied for - then you have the right to expect that they are fit for that purpose. So if you ask a trader if a particular type of glue will stick metal to metal and the trader confirms that it will, then it has to be fit for that purpose. If you go against the advice of the trader, or it is unreasonable for you to rely on the advice of the trader, and continue with a purchase, you cannot later claim that the goods were not fit for the purpose you stated. So if the trader advised you that a particular type of glue was not designed to stick metal to metal and you went ahead with the purchase only to discover it did not work, you would not be entitled to a refund.
You have the right to expect that goods are as described.
If you see or examine a sample of the goods then the goods must match the sample, unless any differences are pointed out to you before you go ahead. For example, if you base your decision to buy a carpet on a swatch of material within a carpet sample book, then the carpet you are given has to match the swatch.
If you see or examine a model of the goods then the goods must match the model, unless any differences are pointed out to you before you go ahead. Perhaps you examined the display camera on a shelf in the store before making your purchase; the boxed version that you collect at the checkout must be the same as what you examined.
If a trader installs goods as part of the contract, then you have the right to expect that the installation is carried out correctly. If this doesn't happen then the goods do not 'conform to the contract'. The short-term right to reject does not apply when the problem relates to goods that have not been installed correctly, but you still have other remedies available to you. Details of what this means can be found in the 'What if my statutory rights are not met?' section.
Some goods may be supplied with pre-installed digital content. In this case, if there is a problem with the digital content then the goods themselves do not 'conform to the contract' and you have the remedies available to you as set out in the 'What if my statutory rights are not met?' section.
It is an important element of a contract that traders must give you specific pre-contract information, as set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. The 'Buying from business premises: on-premises contracts explained', 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order: distance contracts explained' and 'Buying at home: off-premises contracts explained' guides explain what these pre-contract requirements are. If a trader does not provide the required information, you can make a claim to have your costs (if you have any) reimbursed.
Do you have the right to change your mind?
If you change your mind about goods after you have made the contract, this Act does not give you the right to return them for a refund or replacement. The trader may have a returns policy that will allow you to return goods but check the terms and conditions; there may be time limits on returning the goods or you may be restricted to having replacement goods rather than a refund. A returns policy cannot restrict or remove your statutory rights. Keep your receipt / gift receipt or any other proof of purchase to prove to the trader that you obtained the goods from them.
There are some contracts that you do have the legal right to change your mind about, depending on where they were agreed. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 cover 'distance' contracts, such as those made via the internet, phone and mail order, and 'off-premises' contracts, such as those made on your doorstep. You have the right to cancel most 'distance' and 'off-premises' contracts and the cancellation period is 14 days. The 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order: distance contracts explained' and 'Buying at home: off-premises contracts explained' guides give more information.
What if your statutory rights are not met?
If the goods are faulty, not fit for purpose, not as described or if other rights are not met, then the trader is in breach of contract. This means that you are entitled to seek a legal remedy. This following sections explain what remedies are available to you.
Short-term right to reject the goods
You have 30 days from the day after the goods were supplied to reject them for a full refund and/or the return of anything else transferred under the contract (part-exchange goods for example). In the case of a hire contract, you are entitled to a refund for the unused hire period. For hire purchase and conditional sale agreements, you are entitled to have the payments you made reimbursed. Where goods are likely to naturally perish within that time, the time limit for rejection will be shorter.
You must give a clear indication to the trader that you are rejecting the goods and that you consider the contract is at an end. You must allow the trader to collect the goods or you must return them at the trader's expense if that was the agreement. You are not entitled to recover the cost of returning them in person to the place where they were supplied to you. The refund must be given to you without undue delay and in any event within 14 days from the day the trader confirms you are entitled to a refund. This must be by the same means of payment you used to make the purchase. However, an alternative can be used if you expressly agree to this.
If a number of goods are supplied under the same contract, you can keep and pay for the goods that are satisfactory and reject and obtain a refund for the goods that are faulty. If the goods form a commercial unit, such as a set of pans sold together, then the entire unit must be rejected.
As an alternative to rejecting the goods for a refund, you have the option to ask for, or agree to, a repair or replacement. The period between this time and the time you actually receive the repaired or replaced goods is called the 'waiting period'. If the repairs have not worked or the replacement is also faulty, you have seven days after the waiting period ends or the remainder of your 30 days (extended by the waiting period) if it is later, to reject the goods for a refund.
Right to a repair or replacement
If you decide not to reject the goods, or if the 30-day time limit has passed, you can ask the trader to repair or replace them at their expense. The repair or replacement must be carried out within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience. You will need to demonstrate what makes the trader's offer to repair or replace significantly inconvenient if you want to opt for another remedy.
You cannot insist that the trader repairs or replaces the goods if either remedy is impossible or disproportionate (too costly) when compared to other remedies you may have. You cannot switch between repair and replacement, or take up your short-term right to reject, until you have given the trader a reasonable time to carry out the chosen remedy, unless of course it causes you significant inconvenience.
Right to a price reduction or final right to reject the goods
You do not have to give the trader more than one opportunity to repair or replace the goods if they are faulty. If the repairs or replacement are unsuccessful then you are entitled to ask for either a price reduction or to claim your final right to reject the goods. You can if you wish give the trader more chances to repair or replace before you opt for the other remedies. The right to a price reduction or a final right to reject also apply where the trader is not obliged to repair or replace the goods (if it is impossible or too expensive). If you ask the trader to repair or replace the goods but they fail to do so within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience, you also have the right to a price reduction or a final right to reject.
So what is a price reduction? You can choose to keep the goods and ask the trader to give you a reduction in the price to take account of the issue that breached your rights.
What does final right to reject mean? It means that you are entitled to reject the goods for a refund, but the trader can make a deduction from the refund for the use you have had from the goods. The trader must not make a deduction for any time delay caused by their failure to collect the rejected goods from you. In addition, they cannot make a deduction if you exercise your final right to reject within six months from the supply of the goods, unless the goods are a motor vehicle.
Do you have to prove that goods are faulty to claim your rights?
If you exercise your short-term right to reject - that is, to reject the goods within 30 days - then you may have to prove that the goods were faulty at the time they were supplied to you, unless the fault is obvious.
However, if you opt for a repair or replacement or are seeking the remedies of either price reduction or final right to reject, and a fault is discovered within six months of receiving the goods, then in most cases it is presumed that the fault was there at the beginning. Sometimes faults do not show up straight away but they were nevertheless present in the goods. It is for the trader to prove otherwise - for example, they may believe that you have damaged or misused the goods. This is commonly referred to as the 'reversed burden of proof'.
After six months the burden of proof switches back to you if you want to make a claim against the trader because the goods are faulty.
Do you have any other remedies?
Your statutory rights are automatically included in the contract you have with the trader. If they are not met then the trader is in breach of contract. This means that you can seek one of the legal remedies described in the 'What if your statutory rights are not met' section. However, you might decide to take a different route to seek redress.
If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because a trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights of redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices: rights of redress' guide gives more information. You can report complaints about unfair trading practices to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.
If you paid for goods on finance arranged by a trader, or if you paid for goods using your credit card and they cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, you have rights under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the finance / card provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or misrepresentation. This could include supplying faulty goods, non-delivery of goods or making false claims about goods. You are entitled to take action against the trader, the finance / card provider or both.
If the cost of the goods exceeds £30,000 and is less than £60,260, and the finance was arranged specifically to buy those goods, you may be able to claim against the finance provider under section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
If you are unhappy with the finance / card provider's response then you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
How long do your rights last?
In England and Wales you have a limit of six years from the date of the breach of contract (the date when the faulty goods were supplied) in which to make a claim against the trader. This works a little differently in Scotland where you have a limit of five years to make a claim, starting from the time you became aware the goods were faulty.
This does not mean that goods have to last the five or six years; it depends on what is reasonable for the type of goods supplied.
Delivery of goods: what are you entitled to?
The trader must deliver the goods to you unless you have agreed otherwise. The goods must be delivered without undue delay or in any event not more than 30 days after the day on which you make the contract. This does not prevent you and the trader from agreeing your own arrangements for delivery but you should ensure this arrangement is written into the contract.
... you are entitled to cancel the contract and claim a full refund.
If you order multiple goods from the trader and some of them are not delivered on time or not at all, you have an alternative to ending the contract. You can cancel the order for any of the goods or reject goods that have been delivered. The trader must refund you for the part of the order you cancelled or for the goods you rejected. Where goods form part of a 'commercial unit' - for example, a set of cutlery - you cannot cancel part of the order, you have to cancel the whole thing. These rights do not prevent you from seeking other remedies for late delivery if you so wish.
If the trader delivers the wrong quantity of goods you can reject them, but if you agree to accept them you must pay for them at the contracted rate. If you receive more goods that you ordered, you can either reject the over-supply or pay for them at the contracted rate.
You do not have to accept delivery in instalments unless you agree to it. If you agree and one or more of the deliveries is defective - because the goods are faulty, for example - then you have the right to claim damages, to reject the defective instalment or to cancel the contract.
You become responsible for the goods when you (or a person identified by you) take actual possession of them. Until that time, the trader is responsible for them even if they use a carrier. If you organise your own carrier, then the trader is only responsible for the goods until your carrier takes possession of them.
There are rules that apply when a trader or a manufacturer offers a free guarantee with goods that are supplied to you.
So what is a guarantee? This is a statement given by a trader or a manufacturer that the goods will meet certain standards and if they do not, you will be entitled to claim a refund, replacement or repair. There is no obligation on a trader or a manufacturer to offer a guarantee but if they do so, it is legally binding. For example, if a trader refuses to repair the goods when the guarantee states that they will, the trader will be in breach of contract and you can make a claim. This might be for the cost of getting the goods repaired elsewhere. The 'Guarantees & warranties' guide gives more information on these rules.
Do you have rights when you buy second-hand goods?
Yes. You have the same rights when you are supplied with second-hand goods as you do when you are supplied with new. However, you should be realistic and have different expectations when deciding if the goods are of satisfactory quality because by their nature they have been used. Check the goods thoroughly before you buy; you may not be entitled to make a claim for goods not being of satisfactory quality if it is something that you ought to have discovered or was pointed out to you beforehand.
Do you have the same rights when goods are in a sale?
Yes but if the goods are reduced in price because of a fault and it was brought to your attention before you bought or if you examined the goods and should have spotted the fault, then you would not be entitled to a remedy from the trader for that particular fault.
What about private sales?
The law only applies to contracts for the supply of goods between a trader and a consumer. This means that if you buy goods from a private individual you do not have the same legal rights as when buying from a trader. The legal warning 'let the buyer beware' applies. Check the goods thoroughly before you decide to buy. You do not have the right to expect that goods are of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose but they must still be accurately described.
The rights you have when you attend a public auction in person depend on whether you are buying new or second-hand goods.
If you buy new goods you are classed as a consumer and you are entitled to the rights and remedies that the law provides. Your rights cannot be excluded or restricted.
If the auction is selling second-hand goods and you have the opportunity of attending the auction it is considered to be a business sale and you are not classed as a consumer. This means that the usual legal rights and remedies will not automatically apply; the auctioneer can exclude them. Check any notices that appear in the auction's premises or its website for details of your rights and exclusions.
What if a trader has a 'no refunds' term written in the contract?
A trader is not allowed to exclude or restrict your legal rights in any way. If you inadvertently agree to a term in a contract that excludes or restricts your rights, you are not bound by it because it is considered an 'unfair term'. See the 'Unfair terms in consumer contracts & notices' guide for more information. If a trader tries to restrict or exclude your rights report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
If a trader had a 'no refunds' policy, it is likely to be an unfair trading practice. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibits unfair trading practices. If you think a trader is trading unfairly report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.
What to do if things go wrong?
This leaflet gives you all the information you need on the rights you have and the remedies you are entitled to. The 'Sale & supply of goods: what to do if things go wrong' guide explains the practical steps you can take when complaining to a trader about faulty goods.
Last reviewed / updated: January 2019
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.
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The county council is not responsible for this information.