Consumer rights: what to do if things go wrong

Consumer Rights Act 2015

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015), any goods you buy – whether it is physical or digital or whether you bought it in a shop or online – must be:

  • of satisfactory quality (ie, not faulty or damaged when you bought them; the test is what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory);
  • fit for purpose (ie, usable for the purpose you bought them for);
  • as described (ie, the item must match the description given).

If the product you buy goes wrong – ie, if it does not work, does not match what you ordered, leaks, breaks down, falls apart, causes damage or shrinks – you have rights against the retailer you bought the goods from under the CRA 2015, which differ depending on how long it takes you to complain about the faulty goods.

Complaint within 30 days of purchase

If your product is not of satisfactory quality, not fit for purpose or not as described, you have the right to reject the goods and claim a full refund from the person you bought them off as long as you complain within 30 days of buying the goods.

This right applies only to physical goods – it doesn’t extend to digital purchases, such as downloaded music, books or films – although you do have the right to ask for the download to be repaired or replaced if it’s faulty or for a price reduction if this isn’t possible.

Complaint after 30 days of purchase

If you fail to reject the goods within the 30-day time limit, you can still complain but you have to give the retailer one chance to repair or replace the goods which are not of satisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

If the goods can’t be replaced or repaired, you can claim a full refund or a price reduction if you prefer to keep the goods.

You’re also entitled to a full or partial refund instead of a repair or replacement if:

  • a repair or replacement is not possible;
  • the cost of the repair or replacement is disproportionate to the value of the goods;
  • the goods would take an unreasonably long time to fix;
  • a repair or replacement would cause you considerable inconvenience.

Complaint within six months of purchase

If your goods develop a fault within six months of purchase, the law assumes that the fault was there at the time of purchase and it is up to the seller to prove otherwise. If they can’t, and an attempt at repair or replacement fails, you are entitled to reject the goods and get a full refund or price reduction if you choose to keep the product.

If the attempt to repair or replace the goods is unsuccessful, the retailer isn’t allowed to make any deductions from your refund in the first six months, unless it is a motor car which is faulty, in which case, the retailer can make a reasonable reduction to the refund for the use you’ve already had out of the vehicle.

Complaint after six months of purchase

If a fault develops more than six months after your purchase, it is up to you to prove the product was faulty at the time you took delivery of it. This might require you to obtain an expert report or produce evidence that this particular line of products have similar problems.

If you can prove the product was faulty, you should be able to get it repaired or replaced. If the retailer refuses, you can report them to your local Trading Standards department for breaching your statutory rights or complain to the Consumer Ombudsman. If your product came with a guarantee or warranty, you could also use that to get a repair or replacement.

If all else fails, you have six years to bring a civil claim to court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.