High-street retailers and your rights
(05/05/2015) You don’t need to have watched Channel 4’s recent ‘Dispatches: The secrets of Sports Direct’ to know that retailers often go to extraordinary lengths to convince customers they’re getting a bargain.
Of course, while many shops will naturally do everything they can to squeeze a sale out of you – and many bend consumer rules and guidelines as close to breaking point as possible – few retailers would actually go out of their way to mislead customers in terms of pricing.
Yet people clearly aren’t all that enamoured with the retail sector, as complaints about online or high street shops account for roughly a third of all issues we see raised via www.resolver.co.uk. That’s quite a chunky amount for a sector responsible for just 5.7% of the UK economy.
So just what can you expect from your retailer? And when is it fair to complain?
In terms of prices, they must display correct prices, inclusive of VAT, either on or near the item, in a way that makes it clear to the customer. If they show a higher price as a way of implying a discount, they must clearly state where that price has been drawn from, too (ie whether it’s a recommended retail price or a manufacturer’s recommended price).
If the trader makes a genuine mistake, they will not be obliged to sell at a lower price. As a customer, if you find that the goods are more expensive when you come to pay, you can always change your mind about the purchase, but don’t expect to pay less!
What you should know:
• You have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods, but there is a shift of responsibility after six months from the retailer to the consumer to prove responsibility for the issue
• 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 you decide you no longer want the you bought from a high street retailer, you are not entitled to a refund
• If the trader pointed out a defect at the time of the purchase then 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
Time of the essence
You may be able to claim that ‘time was of the essence’. This is a legal term meaning that the timing of the delivery was imperative. For example, if you ordered a cake that was needed for a birthday party, then the agreed date is obviously of the utmost importance. If this is the case, and you made it clear that ‘time was of the essence’ to the trader, you can either refuse to accept the item and ask for a refund or arrange another delivery date and ask for appropriate compensation.
What if you do not want it any longer?
If you have decided that you no longer want the goods and you bought them from a high street retailer or shop then you are not entitled to a refund. The retailer in this scenario may offer you a credit note, so that you can purchase other goods but they are not obliged to provide this.
What if the goods are on sale?
Regardless of if the goods are in a 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 bought at full 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 then you are not entitled to a refund.
How long is the guarantee?
Your retailer will have a guarantee on the product, but even if outside of that guarantee 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 the product and its overall quality.
Under the law, you have six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods, but there is a shift of responsibility after six months from the retailer to the consumer to prove responsibility 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 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, they may ask you to contact the manufacturer directly. However, your contract is with the retailer and not the manufacturer and it is therefore the retailer's responsibility 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 if 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.