Sale of goods Act 1979 (as amended)

If you want protection when you are shopping, this is the law you need to know.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) is crucial for consumers because it refers to laws which have extended the basic 1979 Act and using the phrase tells the trader that not only do you know basic consumer law, you know it has been amended too.

The Sale of Goods Act lays down several conditions that all goods sold by a trader must meet. 

The goods must be:

  • as described
  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose

As described refers to any advert or verbal description made by the trader.

Satisfactory quality covers minor and cosmetic defects as well as substantial problems. It also means that products must last a reasonable time. But it doesn't give you any rights if a fault was obvious or pointed out to you at point of sale.

Fit for purpose covers not only the obvious purpose of an item but any purpose you queried and were given assurances about by the trader.

If you buy something which doesn't meet these conditions you have the potential right to return it, get a full refund, and if it will cost you more to buy similar goods elsewhere, compensation (to cover the extra cost) too.

Note however that the right to reject goods and get a full refund only lasts for a relatively short time after which a buyer is deemed to have 'accepted' goods. This doesn't mean that the buyer has no legal redress against the seller, just that he/she isn't entitled to a full refund.

Instead a buyer is first and foremost entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced. If these remedies are inappropriate, then you're entitled to a suitable price reduction, or to return the goods and get a refund (reduced to take account of any wear and tear).

The act covers second-hand items and sales. But if you buy privately your only entitlement to your money back is if the goods aren't 'as described'.

If goods which are expected to last six months don't, it'll be presumed that the goods didn't conform to the contract at the time they were bought unless the seller can prove to the contrary.

In all other situations it's for the consumer to prove their own case (that is, that the problem existed at the time of the contract). This will prove more difficult the longer you've had the goods. Subject to this a consumer has six years from the time they buy something in which to make a claim irrespective of how long the goods actually last.

The contents of this website are not intended to be a substitute for individual professional advice. The content of this section is based on the law applying in May 2013.

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