Consumers get stronger rights over defective goods
30th May 2012
Recent decisions by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have added significant weight to consumers’ rights concerning the repair and replacement of faulty goods by retailers.
Current laws protecting consumers, as set out in the Sale of Goods Act 1979, offer UK consumers a range of remedies for dealing with faulty goods beyond the traditional remedy of a refund.
These rights allow consumers to request a repair or replacement of a faulty or defective product within a reasonable timeframe and at no cost to the consumer. Whilst a retailer has the right to refuse to repair a product if the cost of doing so is considerably higher than the cost of replacing the product – and vice versa – a retailer does not have the right to refuse to repair or replace a product simply on the grounds it would be more expensive than offering a refund.
In two recent cases dealt with by the ECJ, consumers had purchased goods but only discovered irreparable faults after installing them. In both these cases the consumers’ requests for the goods to be removed and replaced had been refused by the retailer on the basis it was too expensive. Upon hearing the cases the court held that where goods are installed by a consumer (or retailer) before a defect becomes apparent, the retailer will be responsible for the cost of removing and replacing the defective goods.
These decisions strengthen a consumer’s position when faced with faulty goods but place additional burdens on many struggling retailers. In particular, retailers must be clear on the obligations placed upon them should their goods be found to be faulty. Also, retailers are advised to revisit their standard terms and conditions of sale as these must no longer contain any clause stating the customer is responsible for any removal or installation costs relating to a defective product.
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Solicitor in Civil Litigation Team
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