Your consumer guide to buying goods and services

Bitterwallet-Len-Dastard-featured Buenos días to you, my sacos vacíos de la felicidad. It is I, Len Dastard, full time litigation executive and masked consumer champion back to fight for you. Consider this to be as triumphant a return as El Rumble Clásico in ‘79. Where have I been? I cannot tell you where I have been but I can assure you that the streets of Tijuana have never been so crime free. Silencio, we need to begin…

Buying goods and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SoGA)

Key points:

When you buy goods from a shop the law (SoGA) says that the goods must be:

• S14 (2) – of satisfactory quality. That is to say that you would expect the item to last for a certain length and time and certainly be free from any defects. If you are aware of defects prior to your purchase, you may not be able to rely on this section.
• S14 (3) – fit for purpose. Consider the main use of the item and then ask whether or not the item is indeed fit for the intended purpose. An exception to this rule may be that your intended use was not in the contemptation of both parties when you entered into the contract.
• S13 (1) – the item should be as described. Description could also be what the trader has told you.

If the goods do not meet these rights, you may be entitled to:

• Refund
• Repair
• Replacement

The above rights only apply to goods purchased from a shop. If buying from a private seller, the only rights that apply are:

• The goods match their description.
• The goods belong to the seller.

Points to note:

Always check the retailers T&Cs. Whilst they cannot exclude your rights in relation to the above, there may be other conditions which you ought to be aware of. Such as the point at which the contract is formed because until you have a contract, you may not necessarily have rights under it.

Always keep proof of purchase – receipt, bank statement etc.

Buying a service and the Sale of Goods and Services Act 1982

Key points:

When you buy a service it should be:

• Undertaken with reasonable care and skill to a good standard. You should therefore expect there to be no faults or flaws.
• At a reasonable cost. Obviously be aware that any communicated quote should be adhered to unless agreed otherwise.
• Within a reasonable time. Obviously reasonable depends on the circumstances. As an expample, you would not expect a mechanic to take 3 days to change a tyre.

Points to note:

Almost request a quote and make sure that is covers exactly what work you need undertaken. Do not agree to work “for the sake of it”. Make sure the work is actually required.

Cancelling an order or changing your mind? - Distance Selling Regulations 2000

When you do not deal “face to face”, the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 allow you to cancel the contract as long as you are within the “cooling-off period”. This is usually within a 7 working day period on which you receive the goods or the service is due to start. However, the trader has to provide the following information before the cooling off period starts:
• Your right to a cooling off period
• How to cancel your order
• Who is responsible for returning goods
• Who has to pay the cost of returning goods if you cancel in the cooling-off period
• Information about any after-sales service
• The address to use for complaints

If the trader doesn’t provide you with this information then your cooling-off period extends up to a maximum of three months and seven working days.

There are of course some exceptions to the cooling-off period. These are:
• Goods made to a personalised specification
• Perishable goods, such as foodstuffs and flowers
• Audio/video recordings or software where the seal has been broken
• Newspapers, magazines or other reading material (not books)
• Gaming, betting, lotteries
Points to note:

Strangely enough, you cannot rely on the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 if you used a public payphone to order the goods/service!

You are usually responsible for the cost of returning the item if you simply change your mind.


  • Vincent
    If you change your mind within 7 days, the retailer should refund the item cost and the postage fee that they charge to mail the item to you. You are only responsible of paying the return postage. Perhaps you can follow up with an article on how a customer can successfully get the full refund (item cost + postage cost) from the retailers. My experience is that retailers are all happy to refund the item cost as long as you mail the item back to them at your own cost but they try to get out of refunding the original postage cost they charge to mail the item out.
  • Mary H.
    Yah yah yah, that's all well 'n' good, Len, but in practice, this is utter bullshit. Vincent, that's bullshit too. The retailer does not have to refund for postage costs if you change your mind, only if the item is faulty or 'not fit for sale' you tit-end!
  • Frank P.
    I totally agree with Mary Hinge on that point. Vincent is a tit-end.
  • sodtheestablishment
    Can anyone shed some light on how to go about enforcing this sales of goods act 1982? i.e say if shop says 'we are going to send the product off for testing' what happens then? because when they say theyre sending it off, the customer is left without the goods & the money too.

What do you think?

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