Buying goods – your rights

UPDATE: On 1st October 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force.  This means that any consumer contracts formed on or after this date will need to meet those requirements.  Consumer contracts formed up to and including 30th September 2015 will still need to meet the requirements below.  New advice content coming soon. If in any doubt please call 03454 040506.

When you buy goods from a trader you enter into a contract which is controlled by many laws including the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended). The law gives you certain (sometimes referred to as statutory) rights under this contract.

Your rights

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) states that goods should be:

Ipswich town centreOf satisfactory quality – Goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet a standard which a reasonable person would regard as being satisfactory, taking account of any description applied to them, the price (if relevant) and all other relevant circumstances. Satisfactory quality also includes the state and condition of the goods, their fitness for the purpose for which they were supplied, appearance and finish, their safety and durability and whether they are free from minor defects.

Public statements made by the trader, manufacturer or their representative relating to specific characteristics of the goods, particularly in advertising or on labelling must be accurate and are a factor in determining whether goods are of satisfactory quality.

Fit for the purpose made known to the trader – Goods must be fit for their general purpose and any particular purpose that a consumer makes known to the trader at the time of purchase . For example if you buy a sleeping bag it must work as a sleeping bag. If you make it clear before you buy it that you need it for -40 degree conditions and the trader states it will be suitable then it should be suitable.

As described – Goods should correspond with any description applied to them.

When are you not entitled to anything?

  • if the trader made you aware that the goods were faulty before you bought them
  • if the fault was obvious and it would have been reasonable to have noticed it on examination before buying the goods
  • if you caused any damage yourself
  • if you have changed your mind about the goods for example they are the wrong size or you don’t like the colour.

You may have additional rights where:

  • the contract to buy goods involves credit. For more information, check out the ‘Your rights when buying on credit’ leaflet
  • if you buy goods by distance means (without face to face contact, such as online, catalogue, telephone) in most cases you are entitled to a cooling off period and can return goods even if you have changed your mind. For more information, check out the ‘Shopping from home’ leaflet.
  • you have agreed to buy goods in your home, another person’s home, your place of business or during an excursion organised by the trader at a place away from their usual place of business. For more information, check out the ‘Your rights to cancel when buying at home’ leaflet.

What are you entitled to?

If the goods do not conform to the contract, in other words are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described, you are legally entitled to one of the following remedies:


You are entitled to a full refund if you have not yet ‘accepted’ the goods. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) states you have accepted the goods when:

you inform the trader that you have accepted the goods

you use the goods in a way which is inconsistent with the trader’s ownership. For example, if you have altered the goods in any way or customised them then you may be deemed to have accepted them.

You keep the goods for longer than a reasonable time without telling the trader that you have rejected them. You are entitled to a reasonable opportunity to examine the goods and this should take place within a reasonable time. The law does not specify what is ‘reasonable’ and ultimately a court would determine this based on the facts of each case. You should, therefore, contact the trader as soon as you find the fault as a delay may mean you lose your right to a refund.

If acceptance has taken place, the following remedies are available:


You are entitled to ask the trader to repair or replace the goods at their expense. The trader can refuse to do so if the repair or replacement is impossible or disproportionate (too costly) when compared to other remedies.

The repair or replacement must be carried out within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience.

Note: Even if you have not accepted the goods, you are still entitled to opt for repair or replacement of the goods if that is what you prefer. If these remedies take an unreasonable length of time or cause you significant inconvenience or do not resolve the problem, you are still entitled to a refund.

The remedies of repair or replacement, reduction in the purchase price or rescission (cancelling) of the contract do not apply to hire purchase contracts as other laws apply. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for further advice.


If repair or replacement takes an unreasonable length of time, causes you significant inconvenience or if they are not possible, then you are entitled to claim a reduction in the purchase price or to rescind (cancel) the contract and claim a partial refund based on your usage of the goods whilst you have had them.


If you have been sold faulty goods, you are entitled to claim from the trader any direct expenses which you have incurred. This is called consequential loss. For example, if your washing machine developed a fault and clothing was torn, you could claim for the cost of the clothing as well as seeking repair, replacement, full or partial refund from the trader.

Proving the fault

If you intend to reject the goods for a full refund because you have not accepted them, it is YOU, the consumer, who needs to prove that there has been a breach of contract in that the goods are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described at the time of purchase. If you have accepted the goods and are seeking repair or replacement within the first six months after purchase, it is for THE TRADER to prove that the goods conformed to the contract (were not faulty) at the time they were sold to you. If you are claiming repair or replacement more than six months after purchase, the burden of proof is back to YOU, the consumer.

If you are in dispute with the trader, you may need to obtain an expert opinion to establish what the problem is, how it was caused, what it will take to sort out the problem and who is to blame.

About suffolktradingstandards
Suffolk Trading Standards is working towards creating and fair and safe trading environment. By creating empowered consumers, that are armed with the knowledge to stop 'rogue traders'.

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