Sale of Goods Act: Understand your rights

Shop till

I'm Fergus Muirhead and I'm here to answer any questions you may have about any money or consumer issues.

Please drop me a line at fergus@bbc.co.uk with your questions. You can also read more on money and consumer issues on my own blog.

On last week's John Beattie Show on BBC Radio Scotland, we looked at how you can use the Sale of Goods Act to make sure that shops know that you understand your rights.

So this week I have dug out some old questions that relate to the legislation, and show how you can make sure that you use the rules under the Act to your advantage if things go wrong with goods that you have purchased.

Q. I have an upright vacuum, which has developed two faults. The mechanism which is meant to keep the unit upright when selected no longer functions, and the hose attachment to the unit is no longer secure. The shop I bought it in say I must deal with the manufacturers, who will take the vacuum away, look at it and repair. I told them that my contract is with them, not the manufacturer, and I have requested an exchange, which they have refused. Am I within my rights or not to refuse a repair and insist on a replacement? Nipendra Dey

A. I would suggest that you go back and explain to them again that under the Sale of Goods Act your contract is with them and you would like them to deal with the problem.

They are correct when they say that you can ask the manufacturer to deal with the issue since I would imagine that the machine is still under warranty and as such the manufacturer has a liability to deal with it.

But the retailer has a liability as well and if you choose to take it back there then they should deal with it.

You may have to convince them that the fault was there at the time that the machine was purchased since it is over six months old but you should still be able to ask them to deal with it for you.

And when I say 'deal with it', I would think that if the machine is less than a year old and if the faults that the unit has developed make it unable to be used properly then you should be able to insist on a replacement.

Q. I was always told that if you have faulty goods then your warranty is with the shop you bought the goods from. However, both myself and friends have found that when you return a mobile phone to the shop you bought it at you're told to return it to the manufacturer at your own expense. Is this correct? Brian Millar

A. The simple answer to this is that you can return faulty goods to either the retailer or the manufacturer.

The retailer can be responsible because your contract under Sale of Goods legislation is with them and the manufacturer because for the first 12 months or so after purchase you are likely to be covered by a manufacturer's warranty.

In most cases it makes sense to take faulty goods back to the retailer and you shouldn't be fobbed off if you are told that it is nothing to do with them.

Many shop staff try to get you to return goods to the manufacturer largely because they don't understand the Sale of Goods legislation themselves, and it makes their lives easier if they don't have to deal with you.

As another option under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act you may have a claim against the credit card company if you paid for your faulty goods using a credit card, and the goods cost more than £100 but less than £30,000.

Q. I purchased a new dishwasher recently. I collected it a few days later and had it connected. I was horrified to discover that my normal-sized dining plates do not fit into the racks as the rotating arm hits the top of the plates. I also have some smaller dinner plates which fit but I can place only five plates on one side as on the other side the rotating arm again hits the top of them. This was not pointed out to me and I feel that the machine is not fit for purpose. I had my family over (20 people) and had to wash all the dinner plates by hand. Do I have a legal complaint against the seller as this was not pointed out and even in the user instructions does not mention a size limit for plates? I have used it a total of four times. I am going back to see what they have to say but would appreciate any help from you. Mary Smith

A. This is an interesting question. The Sale of Goods Act says that goods you buy have to be 'fit for purpose', of 'satisfactory quality' and 'as described'.

I understand from your question that the dishwasher is working and so I suppose the question we need to address is whether it is 'as described' or 'fit for purpose'.

I'm sure the retailer will argue that you didn't specify the size of plates you wanted to wash and had you asked they would have told you the maximum size that would have fitted in the dishwasher, and advised you to buy a bigger model if your plates were bigger than the biggest ones that would fit.

You are not entitled to a replacement or refund because something doesn't suit you, or fit, after you have purchased it, but assuming that the dishwasher was not advertised as a 'mini' or 'small' or something similar then I would argue that you would expect a 'normal' dishwasher to wash 'normal' dishes and therefore it is not 'fit for purpose' and you would like a replacement.

You may also want to check the settings in your dishwasher since on discussing this question the other day someone I spoke to said they had the same issue and then realized their dishwasher had different settings that allowed the racks to be placed at different heights, thereby allowing different-sized plates to be washed.

I don't mean to sound patronizing if you have already tried this, but it's possible that no-one in the shop thought to explain this to you at the time. Let me know how you get on.

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