Faulty goods

By definition, according to the Sale of Goods Act, any goods you buy from a shop should be 'fit for purpose', in satisfactory condition and as described when they were sold to you. If not, you are entitled to replacement or repair (but not a refund, unless the the retailer can't replace or repair it), regardless of any additional warranties on the goods, return policies or disclaimers. The same applies to goods bought from a website or by mail order, provided that the selling company is based in the UK, and buying this way also gives you the additional right to return any goods -whether satisfactory or not – within seven days if you change your mind.

Is a receipt required?

The length of time goods should be expected to last for depends on the item, but one important aspect of the law is that it is the retailer, not the manufacturer, that is responsible of anything goes wrong, again whether or not there is manufacturer's warranty attached. Another common fob-off is that a receipt is required – again, not true as long as you have some proof of purchase such as bank statement or credit card bill.

In the event that the shop is unhelpful (which is often the case as many shop staff are not fully aware of the the law), then the next step should be the retailer's head office. If they still dispute your claim, then the only remaining recourse is the small claims court (for claims under £5000) or the county court, in which case legal advice is essential. In England and Wales, any court claim for faulty goods must be made with six years of purchasing the goods. Another point worth noting is that for the first six months after a purchase is made, it is up to the retailer to prove that the item wasn't faulty – after six months, it's up to you to prove that it is faulty, for example by getting an independent report from a repairer.

One last thing to be aware of: if buying privately (including through auction sites such as ebay) these rights do not apply – it's a case of 'buyer beware'.

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