Understanding Your Rights Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979

Understanding Your RightsAs many thousands of people look to return their unwanted Christmas gifts in January, it is definitely worth refreshing your memory on the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and how this affects your rights as a consumer. After all, when you think about it, this Act of Parliament focuses on an area of law that we are all involved with on an everyday basis.

Given the fact that consumer law is so prevalent within our lives, it is interesting to note that such a small percentage of the population fully understands their statutory rights when it comes to buying goods from a retailer. Most people will have picked up snippets of information that relate to the Act in some way, but if you were to ask the average member of the public to explain the law fully, you would be greeted with glazed-over eyes and absolute silence.

Even people who are familiar with the law are often inclined to think that it goes further than it actually does. Therefore it is important to set out exactly what is covered under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and what is not.

By far the easiest way of understanding what the Sale of Goods Act 1979 covers is to think about a single word: ‘faulty’. This legislation will not protect you if, for example, you take home a product that is too small or you have changed your mind and decided that you no longer want it. The entitlement to exchange goods in these circumstances or to receive a full refund is completely at the discretion of the retailer from whom you have purchased the product(s) in the first place.

However, you have the legal right to demand a refund from the applicable retailer if the goods you have bought do not satisfy the following test:

All goods should be (1) as described (in accordance with advertising or a verbal description etc.); (2) of satisfactory quality; and (3) fit for purpose.

If the goods in question do not comply with the three points above, you have a legal right to demand a refund.

The next area of confusion, and the point on which retailers may attempt to dupe their customers, is who is responsible if you have faulty goods. This is also set out very clearly in the Sale of Goods Act 1979: the retailer who sold you the product –not the manufacturer, as far too many traders may try to assert – is responsible for any faulty goods.

It is very important for you to bear in mind that you have only a very limited period of time in which to return a faulty product to the original retailer. It is commonly accepted that after a period of around 28 days, the retailer is entitled to presume that you have ‘accepted’ the product. Making a claim for a fault after this time will prove to be more problematic.

One of the best things about studying law is the fact that you are able to delve more deeply into the legislation that controls so many areas of your life. As we have seen here, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 is a hugely important instrument of law that affects a type of contract that most of us initiate several times per day. Therefore, surely it makes sense to understand your legal rights more fully.

If you are keen to learn more about contract law, it is worth remembering that this branch of the legal system, along with many others, is covered in the Legal Secretaries Diploma course. As we are now at the start of a brand-new year, what better time to think about studying for that legal qualification you have always dreamed of?