What remedies are available to buyers in a contract for the sale of goods?

What are remedies?

A buyer involved in a contract for the sale of goods could receive remedies if the other party to the contract known as the seller fails to perform something which he promised to do as part of the contract. This means that the seller will have breached the contract. The remedies available could include compensation or perhaps bringing the contract to an end prematurely. When the buyer is a consumer (which means that the buyer is not acting in the contract for a company) then he will have further rights to rely on. This is because consumers are given more protection by the law because they could potentially be more vulnerable to fraudulent businesses.

What constitutes a breach of the contract?

A seller’s basic duty in a sale of goods contract would be to deliver the goods in accordance with the terms of the contract. Therefore if the seller fails to deliver in the manner which was required under the contract then he will be in breach of the contract. The seller would also be in breach of the contract even if he delivered the goods on time but the goods themselves did not comply with the terms of the contract.

Which laws can be relied on?

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 contains provisions which allow for remedies to be given in consumer contracts when the seller fails to perform. Also the general law of contract contains remedies which can be used when a contract has been breached. There is also new legislation from an EC Directive which has incorporated in UK law by the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002. These regulations introduce further rights to protect the consumer.

Buyers remedies

Rejection

If the seller breaches a condition of the contract such as failing to deliver the goods by a certain date then the buyer will be entitled to reject the goods and terminate the contract. It can be possible to modify a contract before it is signed and restrict the right to reject good in certain situations. It is therefore advisable to check carefully when signing a contract to see if any such restrictive clauses are being used by the seller. If you want to reject goods that have been delivered late and breached the terms of a contract, then you must make it very clear that you intend to reject the goods outright. Otherwise there can be a danger that the seller presumes that you have accepted the goods if the rejection is not entirely obvious.

Damages

Any beach caused by the seller allows the buyer to claim damages for any loss caused by the breach. The buyer in this case must show that the losses incurred have resulted directly from the breach of the contract. If the buyer cannot do this effectively then a court could take the view that the losses incurred are too remote from the alleged breach and as a consequence the buyer could lose some or even all of the damages. There are different rules which apply to different types of breach and they have been modified by the Sale of Goods Act 1979. For example the damages which can be awarded for a failure to deliver the goods is based on section 51 (1) of the 1979 Act. It states that the damages should be the ‘estimated loss directly and naturally resulting, in the ordinary course of events, from the seller’s breach.’  

Specific Performance

The court can have the power to order that a specific performance is carried by a party to a contract. This means that the court can order that a specific action be carried out in the event of a breach. Part 5 A of the Sale of Goods Act contains rights which allow consumers to have items replaced and repaired if they do not adequately conform to the terms of the contract which were originally agreed on between the parties.

Additional remedies in consumer cases

As already stated consumers are given more protection in the event of a breach of a contract for the sale of goods than if they were acting in the course of a business. The new 2002 regulations allow for further rights to be given to consumers as well as the existing law. For example the regulations allow the buyer the right to require that the seller reduce the purchase price by an appropriate amount if this is necessary. In the event of a breach of contract in a sale of goods the buyer can either rely on rights granted by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 or the further rights granted by the 2002 Regulations.