In-store shopping - Item not as described
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If you feel that you have been sold an item which does not match the description on the packaging, your first course of action should be to take it back to the shop and raise the issue with the retailer. The contract you made was with the retailer and it is their responsibility to resolve the problem.
You must do this as soon as you realise there is a problem, otherwise you may be deemed to have ‘accepted’ the goods. If you have ‘accepted’ the goods, you may still be able to claim a partial refund, a repair or a replacement.You should know
- You have a 30-day time period to return faulty goods and receive a full refund
- If you decide that you no longer want an item that you bought from a high-street retailer, you are not automatically entitled to a refund
- Even if the product is covered by a manufacturer's warranty, your contract is with the retailer rather than the manufacturer; it is therefore their responsibility to resolve your issue
- If the trader pointed out a defect at the time of the purchase, you are not entitled to a refund
- If you paid by credit card and the amount was more than £100 and less than £30,000, the credit card company may be partly responsible for compensating you
What if I no longer want the item?
If you have decided that you no longer want the goods, and you bought them from a high-street retailer or shop, you are not automatically entitled to a refund. The retailer may offer you a credit note so that you can purchase other goods, but they are not obliged to do this.
What if the goods are on sale?
Regardless of whether the goods are on sale, they should be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If there is an issue, you have the same rights as if you bought new or at full retail price, unless the fault was pointed out to you at the time of purchase. If the trader pointed out a defect at the time of the purchase, you are not entitled to a refund.
How long is the guarantee?
Your retailer will have a time-limited guarantee on the product, but even if it is outside of that time you may be able to claim. The law is ambiguous on what a guarantee is and what is deemed reasonable. Six months can be expected as a reasonable minimum, but you need to take into account a reasonable lifespan for the product, how much was paid for it and its overall quality.
Under the law, you have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods, but after six months there is a shift of responsibility from the retailer to the consumer to prove responsbility of the issue. At this point, you may need to prove the problem existed when you purchased the goods and it has taken time for the issue to become apparent. You might also need to provide a report from an expert to support your claim.
If the retailer says the product is outside of its guarantee but there is a manufacturer warranty, it might ask you to contact the manufacturer directly. However, your contract is with the retailer and not the manufacturer: it is therefore the retailer's responsbility to resolve and rectify the issue.
If you paid by credit card
If you paid by credit card, and the amount was more than £100 and less than £30,000 (including VAT), you should contact your credit card company to see whether you are covered by ‘equal liability’ (sometimes called Section 75). This is very often the case, and simply means that your credit card provider is jointly responsible with the trader for compensating you when things go wrong.
The rights described here are the statutory minimum and some retailers may offer enhanced terms and conditions.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and ombudsman services
Certified third-party mediators, called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers, are available to all businesses to help when a dispute cannot be settled directly with the consumer. The system offers a quicker and cheaper way of resolving disputes than going via the courts. Once the internal complaint process is exhausted, businesses must give the consumer details of a certified ADR provider and tell the consumer if it is willing to use them. However, businesses do not have to use ADR unless they operate in a sector where existing legislation makes it mandatory, such as in financial services. The main ADR for the retail sector is the Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme for Retail (RetailADR). There is also a Furniture Ombudsman, which is responsible for issues raised with a selected number of furniture and home-furnishing retailers.
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