Len Dastard, consumer law wrestler takes on the Sales of Goods Act

Bitterwallet - Len DastardBuenas tardes, avid Bitterwallet readers. Len Dastard here - former Mexican wrestler (remember the Reynosa Rumble of '77?) and consumer law expert, here to answer your questions.

Here's an email I received from amigo Crosby Mckenna that had me choking on my jalapeno quesadilla:

What, if anything, can you do about something you’ve bought that does what it;s meant to... but is pretty shit at it?

I spent nearly £200 on a JVC Bluetooth Headunit for my wife’s car and it’s wank. The phone menus are slow and clunky, it takes an age to read discs and swap between tracks, the radio is pants too - but it’s not actually faulty.

I bought it online and because I didn’t fit it til about a month after I bought it and then fought on with it for a bit longer, I can’t even send it back under distance selling regulations. I’ve emailed JVC Customer Service but so far they haven’t replied.

Thank you for the email, hermano. Under S14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (commonly referred to as SOGA1979) there is the following condition that you might be able to rely on:

(2) Where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, there is an implied term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality.

(2A) For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.

(2B) For the purposes of this Act, the quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—

(a) fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied,

(b) appearance and finish,

(c) freedom from minor defects,

(d) safety, and

(e) durability.

I've underlined the two potential clauses that you might be able to use when you next contact the seller. You're already aware the product does actually work but not as efficiently/effectively as you would have hoped. The way to look at this, and put the point across, is that (and make this very clear) a “reasonable person” would consider there are possible minor defects in the product, in that:

• The phone menus are slow - does it have internal memory which you are using to its maximum capacity?
• The Radio is “pants” – you would of course need to elaborate on this point
• Track changing is clunky

You need to put it to them in such a way that they feel you are not being fussy or pernickety. If you've not had similar systems in the past, make the point that this is the first time you have experienced problems with such a unit and you certainly wouldn’t come to expect it from a manufacturer such as JVC etc.

Another important point to note is who you should be contacting. If you bought this from an online retailer (not JVC) you must direct the above information to the retailer, because that's who you've contracted with. It would then be up to the retailer to put this to the manufacturer, as that is who they contracted with.

Got a consumer law-related query? Send them to me, Len Dastard, at hello[@]bitterwallet.com.


  • The B.
    Does this mean I can divorce my wife because she doesn't wash up fast enough and the hoovering's below par?
  • Darren
    Len, I believe there is a backlog of unwanted wives on CEX.. So Real Bob might have a long wait to get rid of her there. Try advertising her on ebay for a nominal 1p, and throw in a Dishwasher with her, you might just get a bite! Make sure you put a "no returns" policy though. D
  • Theo C.
    The example above seems good in the case where something looks shoddy from the start. What is the position under SOGA79 / SOGSA with regard to purchases which prove to be poor after some time? For example, if the product (which seemed fine at point of purchase/first usage) breaks or deteriorates quicker than you'd expect? I had this issue with an item bought from B&Q. Parts of it have started to breakdown less than 2 years after purchase, despite being used according to manufacturer' instructions. The guarantee on the product was 1 year. The replacement part they sent me had a whole load of NEW care instructions (loads more dos & don'ts) compared to the original which suggested to me they found the original to be unsatisfactory quality. I contacted B&Q saying I thought it was their fault and they told me it was my responsibility to prove it was defective at point of purchase. Is that correct/fair/reasonable? How should I proceed with this?
  • Len D.
    Theo, The guarantee you have is in addition to your legal rights so it makes no difference that the guarantee is up. Under the Sale of Goods Act (S14)(2B)(E) there is the mention of "Durability" as an aspect of the quality of the goods. Have you considered putting this point across to them? It depends on the item and the nature of the now apparent defect. If you want to give me some more information on this point I can give it some further thought. Len
  • Theo C.
    Len Thanks The item is a trampoline - or more specifically a protective surround for one. I bought a £200 trampoline instead of a £100 one (better spec, same size) and the material covering the surround has completely perished - disintegrates on touch. So I suggested this was unacceptable. I have friends who just leave their cheap ones out in all weathers, we've put ours away when not in use etc. But for something designed for outdoor use to perish to such an extent under normal usage seems unreasonable, especially when I've paid a premium for an expensive model. I suggested this was not satisfactory quality. Also the fact that the care instructions on the replacement have changed maybe suggests they were aware of a defect which they have tried to mitigate against since my original purchase. Their response was that it was my responsibility to prove the item was defective at point of purchase leading to current problem
  • The B.
    Was it Satans Trampoline? How many times can you bounce up and down on Satans big old trampoline?
  • JS
    I purchased a pre-registered nearly new Mazda 3 with a 3 year warranty from a franchised dealer. The car was serviced regularly by a franchised dealer. After the expiry of the warranty and less than 2000 miles after the latest annual service, the engine ceased due to timing belt failure (more precisely – failure of the tensioner). I was lucky to escape a potentially fatal accident on frozen roads. The whole engine had to be replaced at the cost of £3,626. Mazda Motors UK contributed only 35% as a goodwill gesture for having full service history with their own franchised dealers. Issues: timing belt replacement is due at 150 000 miles or 10 years. My car was only 27 000 miles, just over 4 years old. The cause of failure is not in dispute, but Mazda refuses to accept liability as the car was out of warranty. An expert from Gates confirmed that the timing belt and components must last at least the stipulated mileage and years and beyond. Section 14, Sale of Goods Act 1979 stipulates that goods must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, which includes an element of durability. Clearly, my car was not durable enough to last beyond 27 000 miles and way too short of the expected 150k miles for the timing belt life. A car is expected to last for several years, not just for the duration of the warranty. Mazda Motors UK have been very arrogant in dealing with my complaint. Some 2000 miles after the engine replacement, the starter of the car failed. The dealer quoted me £300 after supposed discount of 35%. It is likely that the starter failed following taking it off the old engine and putting it on the new one and jostling it in the process. Previous break down: the vehicle’s turbo charger failed at 22 months. It took Mazda 2 full months to replace (simple swap of turbo chargers which takes a couple of hours) and longer than that to do ‘investigation’ on the matter. Solicitors have advised on taking legal action against Mazda. Could any one relay similar experience and what was the outcome of your court case?

What do you think?

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