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Your consumer rights

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sale of goodsBuying online is becoming more and more popular as people become increasingly confident in using their credit and debit cards.  But what are your rights when something goes wrong with the product you’ve bought?  This article lays out what your consumer rights are and how you can go about enforcing them.

Sale of Goods Act

Your rights are can be found in  The Sale of Goods Act 1974.  This old piece of legislation has been amended over the past 25 years to strengthen the consumers’ position.  Basically you should expect your purchase to be as described and of satisfactory quality.

If your purchase does not conform to this then you can either ask for a full refund within a reasonable timescale or a reasonable amount of damages or compensation.  Your rights don’t stop here you can alternatively ask for a repair or replacement of the goods.

So how does this translate into a problem with a piece of camping equipment.  Well you may have bought a tent which claims to stand up to gale force winds but falls apart in a breeze or a sleeping bag which has a tear inside it.  In these circumstances you should contact the retailer and assert your rights, its up to you what you ask for.

When you complain about your product the retailer may say that there was nothing wrong with the goods when he sent them out to you.  Under the Sale of Goods Act, for the first six months, the onus to prove that the goods were faulty at the time of purchase is on the retailer and not you.  After six months is is up to you to prove  this.

How to complain?

Getting angry is pointless.  You have been unlucky and so losing your cool will not help.  The most important thing to do is ensure you get a remedy and the best way to get a resolution you are happy with,  is to negotiate.

Now this negotiation doesn’t mean excepting less than you are entitled to.  No, it means  understanding the cost of what would happen should the retailer be stubborn about your situation.  The last thing you want to do is to take legal action against him in a court but that sanction is available to you at a small cost which you need to make clear if you are not getting any satisfaction.  This is part of the negotiation, you hold all the cards!

So speak to the retailer, let him know that you know your rights.  Explain clearly what you want (don’t go asking for any more than you are entitled to) and the timescales you want them achieved in.  More often than not many retailers “backs are put up” by the angry consumer trying to get their pound of flesh so remain calm and reasonable.

Don’t send off your item unless you get a some form of written consent from the retailer that he will refund you the out of pocket expenses and pay in full should he lose the item.  Also take plenty of photographs of the damaged item and send the item off recorded delivery.  All this will back up your case should your item “get lost”.

unsatisfactoryUnsatisfactory outcome, what next?

You have tried to negotiate with the retailer and he is unwilling to satisfy your demands so your next step is to take him to court.  The Small Claims procedure (England and Wale up to £5k, Scotland up to £3k) is relatively easy and cheap to lodge a claim and is designed for this type of small dispute.  You’ll find that many retailers will find the cost of defending the claim not cost effective so they’ll probably settle before it gets to that point.

You could also post your problem below, don’t mention the company, for free advice and help as one of our contributors used to be a Trading Standards Officer.

Next the Distance Selling Regulations

5 Comments »

  • Laura Diggle said:

    Hi,

    we bought a £700 tent in March and there were problems with the poles not coming apart without extreme force. We asked for an exchange and exchanged for a different tent of the same brand. we went camping in cornwall in august and after 2 days the awning broke and the tent flysheet ripped. we contacted the company with details and dates, they said there was nothing they could do because when we were camping there was ‘severe’ weather and they also suggested that we tensioned our guy ropes too tightly. I replied, arguing that other tents in our field withstood the weather well, including cheap tents. Also we have camped in worse weather in our previous tent without problems. The retailer then said they would contact the manufacturer who refused to admit fault but offered to foot half the repair bill. Is this the best we can expect? We are so disappointed in the tent that we do not want to go camping in it again, we would only try to sell it after repair, to try to recoup some of the money.

  • George (author) said:

    No this is not the best you can expect. As you can see from my article above the Sale of Goods Act covers you in this respect. For the first 6 months the onus is on the retailer to prove that the goods are of satisfactory quality, not on you to prove that they are not! The retailer has to prove that the guys ropes were too tight and that the weather conditions were so serve that the no reasonable tent could withstand that. After the six month period the onus is on you to prove the tent had an inherent fault.

    If the retailer is not prepared to refund your money then take them to court. The threat of small claims action should be enough to change the retailer mind. It wouldn’t cost you much to raise an action, in fact you can start it online if it is for a fixed amount. More info about Small Claims.

    The things is if the retailer is being intransigent then you have to show him that you know your rights and, not only that, you are willing to pursue the matter further. Your claim is certainly not vexatious so it would definitely go to court if the retailer didn’t give you your money back. So go back armed with this info and see what he says.

  • Stuart Rae said:

    We decided to purchased a new tent for the weekend just past. We’re a small family of 3 and had previously camped in my small 3 man tent which I’ve had for years. However 3 people in a 3 man tent can get rather cramped to say the least, especially when there’s the possibility of rain or showers. We decided to take advantage of the special offers on the go to purchase a family sized tent in time for the weekend.

    I purchased the tent from an outdoor shop in my local town. Unfortunately they didn’t have the one I wanted in stock, although I could have ordered one, but I wanted it in time for the weekend, as we were booked onto a site with some friends. However I decided to purchase a similar sized one of a different make on the recommendation of the shop assistant, which was cheaper, and not my preferred make (though I was assured it was of good quality).

    Ideally we would have tried erecting the tent prior to going on a camping trip, but that wasn’t possible on this occasion. Whilst pushing the poles through the cover sheet to erect it for the first time, the wind got up slightly and blew the sheet. There was a ripping sound, and we noted that the sheet was caught at the joint of one of the poles, catching and snagging the material as it was blown in the wind. The rip was relatively small and is possibly repairable, and we were able to carry on and erect it fully. Taking the tent down and going home wasn’t an option as 1/ we’d paid for the site 2/ travelled over 40 miles to get there. 3/ It would have spoiled the entire weekend for all concerned! 4/ It was well after 4pm on Saturday afternoon and we’d never have made it back before the shop closed in any case.

    The tent stood the elements fine for the night and was dismantled the following morning without further incident. It is ironic that it turns out that our friends tent is the exact same make and model that I had wanted to purchase (but was out of stock) in the shop. We also noted that there’s was of a better quality, better finished off and has a higher waterproof rating etc.

    Our friends had exactly the same thing happen to them when purchasing a previous tent, and got their money back okay before going online to purchase their current one. I’ve now heard similar stories from others. Everyone has advised us to return the tent to the shop and ask to order and pay for the upgrade of the one I actually wanted in the first place, as the tent should never have ripped so easily on the first and only time we’ve used it.

    Unfortunately the shop are saying that they can either send the tent away for repair, or we can repair it ourselves. They are not prepared to negotiate a replacement or upgrade – unless they find a ‘true’ fault on closer inspection!

    I’ve left it with the shop to get back to me and let me know what is happening, but have been assured that it’s very unlikely that I will get my preferred choice of replacing it with the better quality tent (I’m more than happy to pay the difference!). My wife (who needs a bit of persuading to go camping in the first place) is now saying that she won’t trust this tent again even if they do repair it. Therefore it’s already doomed after spending one night in it. She also noted the quality improvement in our friends tent.

    Where do we stand? I could just accept what the shop says, but in my opinion it shouldn’t rip before we’ve even got it up for the first time. Packing it up as soon as the accident happened and returning it to the shop wasn’t an option for the reasons stated above, though I suspect that the shop may be taking the view that we shouldn’t have carried on with it once the fault was discovered. I’m expecting a phone call from the shop and would like to know my rights as it’s almost certain they will try to ‘fob me off’.

    Thanks for any assistance.

  • George (author) said:

    Well your rights are that the goods must be of satisfactory quality, free from minor defects, fit for purpose. If the goods are not so then you can claim for your money back. The first 6 months of the life of the product the onus is on the retailer to prove that the goods were of satisfactory quality etc. So if you decide to take the retailer to court he would have to prove that the tent was of satisfactory quality etc when you purchased it. To do this he would have to firstly appear at small claims court and provide evidence to prove this. This obviously has a cost not only in time to the retailer in terms of time but also he would have to probably have to hire an expert and a lawyer. Being that you could take an action in the small claims court your cost levels are considerably lower. The reason that I mention all this is that this puts you a position to negotiate with the retailer. If he thinks that you would almost certainly take him to court then he may well either refund or replace/repair the tent just to get you out of his hair.

  • Stuart Rae said:

    Thanks for the quick resposnse. I haven’t hears anything further yet.

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