Consumer Rights Explained: Faulty Goods & Poor Service


As consumers we have all at some time or other had to return faulty goods that have let us down just when we needed them the most. When we haven’t had the goods very long it is even more upsetting so when a quick trip back to the store ends up in a wrangle with an awkward shop assistant the day just gets worse. We all need to know what our legal rights are regarding returning goods that are faulty plus what we need to do in case of poor service.

Faulty Goods

We all have the right to expect goods that we purchase to be in good working order. The law does give us rights when we buy goods so, what are these rights and how can we put them into practice?

What does the Law say Regarding Faulty Goods?

Items bought from a trader must be

Satisfactory quality

Fit for purpose

Match the given description

What Next if it Isn’t

You should be offered a repair

You should be offered a replacement

You should be offered a refund

You should be offered a part refund

Are there Any Exemptions to this Rule?

These rights are not applicable in certain cases such as

The goods are not faulty

The fault was apparent when you purchased the item

Your attention was brought to the fault when you bought the item

You have caused the damage yourself after you bought the item

The goods have lasted the expected lifetime

Wear and tear has occurred as normal

Will I get a Refund?

If you kept your purchases for too long before you decided to return them you may not get a refund. You may also be refused a refund if the goods have been altered or tampered with in any way or if you have attempted a repair before you returned them.

In some cases a part refund may be available. You may negotiate a settlement in part with the trader in which case you will have to pay any expense incurred by returning the goods such as postage charges. You may also claim a refund if the goods you bought were custom made and are not what you ordered. A good example of this is maybe you had a dress made and requested silk only to find polyester has been used.

A refund request involving goods supplied along with a service can be tricky. You may have had blinds fitted that are faulty and won’t close. You can ask the trader to collect the blinds without charge, while if they refuse unfortunately it may mean you have to go to court to get satisfaction. You are expected to keep the goods safe until the trader collects them but if he does not within a reasonable time you are allowed to dispose of the goods.

Your refund should be repaid in the manner you paid for the goods. So, for example if you paid by debit card then the amount should be credited back to your card or if you paid in cash then the refund should be a cash refund.

What if I buy Goods in Instalments?

If you buy goods that will be delivered in instalments such as three monthly deliveries of a product and you are not happy with only one of the instalments you can still get a refund for that one instalment.

What do I do if the Trader Won’t Fix or Replace the Faulty Items?

Generally most traders will try to help if goods are found to be faulty after all it is good customer service plus you are likely to use them again if they help you out. There are scenarios where a trader does not have the responsibility to give you a refund, repair or replace an item.

If damage was caused by you after the purchase of the goods either accidental or other the trader is not obliged to help

Consumers who do not take due care of their goods cannot hold the trader responsible, for example dropping your mobile down the toilet. You should not take your mobile into the bathroom in the first place

Goods that are not used for their specific purpose, such as using a hairdryer to dry wet clothes resulting in a foreign object being sucked into the device, mean that traders cannot be expected to repair or replace

Buying goods listed as seconds will exempt them from being faulty as products that are seconds are not classed as good quality in the first place

Normal wear and tear is expected and cannot be classed as a fault

In cases where your complaint does not fall under any of the above conditions and your trader will still not consider a replacement, refund or repair you will need to seek professional advice. You may be able to take the trader to the Small Claims Court to claim compensation in such cases.

I Have Been Bought a Faulty Gift!

If you have been given a gift that proves to be faulty it is not your responsibility to return it to the trader this lies with the purchaser of the gift. Some traders will replace a faulty gift especially after Christmas or if the purchaser advised the trader that the item was a gift.

Another way to avoid a problem when gifted goods are faulty is to have the trader write the name of the recipient on the receipt. Another scenario is if the gift was sent to you directly. In this case keep the delivery note as proof of purchase should you need to return anything faulty.

Poor Service

When we engage a trader such as a builder, plumber, joiner or electrician we expect a certain standard of service. Sometimes this does not happen and we get poor service that leaves us disappointed or feeling that the money we have paid out has not been spent wisely or we have been duped by traders when it comes to what was promised in the first place. So what can we do about poor service? Do we have to pay? Can we make a trader put things right? These are questions that we all must ask.

Complain to the Trader First

We are entitled to expect reasonable care and skill will be used when we engage a trader to carry out work. If you think both or one of these has not been applied to the work done you must in the first instance tell the trader. You must do it immediately you decide you are not happy with the service any delay could be read as your being satisfied with the service in the first instance.

It’s always a good idea to put your complaint in writing listing things you are not happy with individually and keep a copy for your own records. Larger companies have customer services departments to deal with these matters but if the company is a one man band then you will deal directly with the trader.

Another alternative path is to ask the trader to knock some money off the bill. This is a good way to go if the complaint is a minor one meaning you can live with the fault.

Ask the Trader to Make the Work Right

In most cases when a complaint is made to a trader regarding work carried out they are more than eager to put things right to save their reputation and keep your custom plus recommendation to potential customers. You need to give the trader the opportunity to put everything in order to your satisfaction.

Traders who don’t agree to put things right will face the possibility of you taking them to court. It may not come to that but it is an option when all other avenues have been tried. Sometimes the work is so bad or it is unsafe meaning the customer does not want the trader to put it right as all trust has gone.

In this case you need to be sure of your facts as the trader may claim compensation from you if he is not allowed to continue with the work. Take photographic evidence of the shoddy work plus getting a second opinion from a reputable source is always an option to boost your case should it end up in court.

Can I Refuse to Pay for Poor Service or Claim Compensation?

Before you decide not to pay the trader it is advisable to get a second expert opinion on the work that has been done. The trader is within his rights to take you to court to get at least part of the payment. If you give part payment it may result in the same outcome if the trader is not happy.

You can claim compensation if the trader refuses to put right the work you are complaining about. Compensation can include

Costs incurred by engaging another trader to rectify the poor work done

Damaged goods replaced such as a dress that the hairdresser spilled hair dye on

Time taken off work due to waiting for repairs to be done

Emotional upset caused by things like poor photography or recordings of important one off events

Can I Cancel My Payment Made by Credit Card?

If a payment has gone through or been authorised on a credit card it cannot be cancelled but you may be able to claim compensation. The bill must not be greater than £30,000 or less than £200 to make a compensation claim on a credit card.