Useful information about consumer disputes

You should note that the law in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands may differ from the below. If you believe that your case may fall within one of these jurisdictions please contact the Legal Advice Line for advice.

Index of contents

Time limits

  • There is a 6 year time limit to bring a claim to the courts when there has been a problem with the performance of the contract or condition of the goods. This usually means 6 years from the date that the contract was breached.

Proving your claim

  • In most circumstances, it is for you as the consumer to prove that the goods were faulty before you received them from the trader. In order to prove that there is a fault which existed at the time you received the goods you may have to obtain an independent assessment of the fault.
  • If you buy goods from a trader and a fault occurs within the first 6 months of receiving them, there is a legal presumption that the goods were faulty when you bought them. This means that it is instead for the trader to prove that the fault has occurred because of something you have done. This is usually when the trader can prove that you have misused the goods or accidentally damaged them.
  • If the trader denies that there is a fault at all, you will need to prove that a fault exists.
  • Where you experience a fault with a vehicle you can use an inspection from a mechanic to ascertain the possible cause of the fault.
  • Where there is a dispute regarding workmanship you may request someone in the same profession to assess the standard of the work.
  • If there is an issue with building works that have been carried out it may be possible for a recognised surveyor to assess the works.

You will unlikely have a claim where your complaint arises from:

  • Fair wear and tear
  • Misuse or accidental damage
  • You purposefully damaging the goods
  • You deciding that you no longer want the item although there is nothing wrong with it
  • Faults that you knew about before you bought the goods, e.g. where the goods were marked as “faulty”

Evidence

  • The type of evidence will depend on the fault. It is advisable to obtain all paperwork and receipts you hold with regards to the original purchase and any correspondence between you and the seller.
  • You could gather photographs or videos that show the faults
  • It may be a good idea to keep a diary with regards to the fault and subsequent events.
  • Expert opinions and reports with regards to faults are often very useful especially where there is a dispute that a fault exists.

Resolution

  • As soon as you become aware of the issue you should contact the trader and try to agree a solution as soon as possible.
  • There are different remedies available depending on whether you paid for the goods or services before or after 1st October 2015. These should generally be carried out at the trader’s expense, within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to you.
  • If you received the goods before the 1st October 2015, The Sale of Goods Act 1979 applies and you may be entitled to a number of remedies including a refund, a price reduction, a replacement or a repair (based on the circumstances of your case.)
  • If you received the goods after the 1st October 2015, The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies. Your options for resolving the problem are reliant on whether you notify the trader of the issue within the first calendar 30 days or not.
  • If you notify the trader of an issue with the goods within the first 30 calendar days of receiving the goods you are entitled to return the goods and receive a refund of the full purchase price. If you wish to do this you will need to indicate to the trader that you reject the goods and are treating the contract as having ended. You should receive a refund as soon as possible and within 14 days from when the trader agrees that you are entitled to a refund. You are also entitled to ask for a repair or replacement if you prefer one.
  • If you notify the trader of an issue after the first 30 calendar days, you can ask that a repair or replacement is carried out by the trader. If the problem is still not resolved, you may be entitled to return the goods and receive a partial refund or keep the goods and receive a price reduction. The value of a partial refund or price reduction will depend on the circumstances of your case. The trader must provide you a full refund if you are returning the goods in this way between the first 30 calendar days and the first six months (unless the goods are a motor vehicle).
  • If you paid for a poor service before the 1st October 2015, The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 applies and you may be entitled to have the trader repeat the service or claim for a price reduction.
  • If you paid for a poor service after the 1st October 2015, The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies and you may be entitled to have the trader repeat the service. If it is impossible for the trader to repeat the service or if they fail to repeat the service within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to you, you may be entitled to claim a price reduction. The value of the price reduction will depend on your circumstances.

Compensation

  • For goods governed by The Sale of Goods Act 1979 there is no automatic right to refund or a replacement item
  • For goods governed by The Consumer Rights Act 2015, there are some circumstances where you do have a right to return the goods and claim a refund
  • You may be able to claim the cost of repairing or replacing items which were damaged by poor workmanship – for example a carpet damaged by a poorly fitted radiator or a dress ruined by a dry-cleaner
  • In some cases, compensation for disappointment or mental upset - for example if a wedding photographer produces very bad pictures. The trader would have had to have been aware of the importance to you of the service being properly carried out.

Other sources of help

There are a number of regulatory bodies who may be able to assist in investigating where there appears to be an issue with a company’s trading practice. Different companies are often regulated by different bodies, below are some of the larger regulators that may be able to help:

  • Trading Standards
  • Ombudsman service (there are different ombudsman for the different types of organisations)
  • Motor Industry Code of Practice (this is a voluntary scheme but many car traders and garages are Voluntary members)
  • In the case of disputes in relation to travel, The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and Air Travel Operators Licensing (ATOL) may be able to assist

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