Consumer rights & responsibilities

At BCADS we have advisers who are specialist in caswork in different subjects i.e. Debt, Benefits, Consumer etc.

All our advisers have real-world life experiences. They undergo a tough, independently accredited training programme to ensure that you get the best advice, information, advocacy, support and guidance to help you achieve the best result.

Rights,  Responsibilities  and  Protection are covered under following Acts of Law 

Relevant legislation
Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
Sale of Goods Act 1979
Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994
Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002
Consumer Credit Act 1974

For brief tips on your rights as a consumer see following information.

Whenever you buy anything, you have certain rights and responsibilities. Under the law, your rights vary depending on what it is you are buying – goods or services. You can contact BCADS or your local Children’s Centre to find out your rights as a consumer or you are experiencing any of the following problems:-

  • Buying goods — What   ‘goods’ are, and what rights and responsibilities you have when purchasing goods that turn out to be faulty.
  • What are goods? — Goods are things you have obtained in exchange for money – they could be new or second-hand, and could be bought from a shop or catalogue, at the market or from the Internet.  For example:- Clothes, Electrical Items, Food, Furniture etc.
  • Complaints :- Before you make any complaint you should check whether or not it qualifies as ‘goods’ rather than ‘services’. For example, if you buy a house door and it is not fitted correctly, the problem is with the fitting, not with the door itself. The fitting is a service and different rules apply.
  • What are your rights and responsibilities?  When you buy anything you are  entering into a contract with the seller. This gives both of you (the consumer) and the seller certain rights.
  • Buying goods – Sale of Goods Act. – The most important law on the sale of goods is the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended). This is the Act you can quote if you have a problem with goods you have purchased.


  • Buying Goods:— When and Wherever you buy goods (a shop, market, catalogue, the internet), and even if they are second-hand they should meet three tests. Are the goods:-
  • of satisfactory quality?
  • fit for purpose?
  • as described?


What happens if the seller breaks any of these conditions then you:-

  • have the right to ask for your money back
  • do not have to accept a replacement; if you do accept a replacement, ask for written agreement that if the replacements are faulty you will still get your money back
  • do not have to accept a credit note
  • if you agree to a repair and it is unsatisfactory, then it will not stop you claiming your money back.


Meaning of Satisfactory quality:-   

  • of reasonable appearance and finish
  • safe and durable
  • without defects

You should take account of the age and cost of the goods. Remember, ‘what would a reasonable person expect?’

  • Second-hand goods will not be as good quality as new.
  • ‘Seconds’ will have faults.
  • You will not get good quality goods for rock-bottom prices.

Tip: If a defect has been pointed out or there is an obvious defect on the goods, what can you do? You cannot complain about the defect at a later date, so you buy the goods at your own risk.

Fit for purpose
What are the goods for? For most things, this is obvious. If you buy a second-hand car for scrap, you cannot expect it to be roadworthy.

It also covers any questions you ask about the goods. If you needed a printer for your computer and you asked if it was compatible with your computer (because the packaging gave no clear indication), and you subsequently found it was not compatible, you would have cause for complaint.

Don’t make assumptions about the purpose of the goods you are buying. Check if the waterproof jacket is rainproof if you need it for hill walking.

The responsibility to ask is yours. When you ask a question, take the name of the person you asked, so you can refer to them in future if you need to.

As described
Goods should meet the description given by the seller.

Buying goods – buyer responsibilities

As a consumer, you have certain responsibilities. If you don’t meet these, then you may not be able to use the Sale of Goods Act to make a complaint.

Even if you do not have rights under the Act you might still have other rights, for instance under a guarantee. Take a look at the Additional rights section.

Have you accepted the goods?
If you have accepted the goods you cannot claim a refund. However, you can still claim compensation if the goods are faulty. This is normally the cost of repairs or replacement.

You have a ‘reasonable’ time to return the goods if they are faulty. This means you should try out any goods as soon as possible after purchase. Any delay could mean losing your rights.

If you buy goods at an auction and the auctioneer pointed out that the goods were not covered by the Act (which could be done in a notice), the Act does not apply.

Usually if you are given a present that turns out to be faulty you do not have any rights. The person who bought the goods has the right to complain. However, the law has recently changed; if the buyer identifies who the item is being bought for and this is shown on the receipts then you do have rights under the Act (these are known as ‘third-party rights’).

Private sale
When you buy from a private individual you don’t have the same rights. Car-boot sales come into the same category if the seller is not a business.

The only rule that applies is that the goods should be as described. So if the seller misrepresents the goods then you may be able to make a claim.

Examining the goods
You cannot make any claim under the Act if:

  • before buying you had examined the goods and the defect was obvious
  • the fault was pointed out to you
  • you were told the goods did not meet the description on the packaging
  • you were told they were not fit for the purpose you were buying them.

Goods delivered
You should have reasonable time to inspect goods. If goods are delivered in a faulty condition, then it is your responsibility to tell the seller as soon aspossible. If you keep the goods beyond a reasonable time, it will be assumed you have accepted them and you will only be able to claim compensation (repair, replacement or monetary compensation – which you are entitled to will depend on how long you have kept the goods).

Note: Just because you have signed a delivery note saying you have received the goods does not take away your right to have reasonable time to inspect the goods. It is always sensible to sign with the note received but not inspected.

Changing your mind
If you have changed your mind about the goods, you have no rights under the Act. Some shops do give exchanges or credit notes but have no legal obligation to do so.

If you have given a trader a deposit for an item, you have entered a contract. If you then change your mind about the purchase, the trader is within their rights to keep the deposit. If you put a deposit on a hired item then the rules are the same.


Buying goods – additional rights

As well as your rights under the Sale of Goods Act you may also have rights under other legislation:

  • Trade Descriptions Act
  • guarantees
  • goods on credit
  • Consumer Protection Act
  • unsolicited goods.

Trade Descriptions Act
This is part of the criminal law – it is a criminal offence to describe something inaccurately. This could be:

  • an advertisement
  • labeling
  • a verbal description from a shop assistant.

If you think this law has been broken, then you should inform your local Trading Standards Department.

If you buy a coat because you have been told it is leather and later find it is not, you can :

  • claim you money back under ‘As described’ in the Sale of Goods Act.
  • report the trader to the Trading Standards Department.

Manufacturers’ guarantees are available on many items, particularly electrical goods. If the goods develop a fault within a specified time then the manufacturer pays for the repair.

  • This guarantee is in addition to your legal rights via the Sale of Goods Act.
  • You may have to register your guarantee to make it valid.

Extended guarantees
Many large stores that sell electrical goods will offer you an extended guarantee along with the goods. Before agreeing, double-check to see what you are paying for and whether you are already covered.


Goods on credit
The Consumer Credit Act covers goods bought with credit cards. It also covers many other areas of consumer rights that are backed by criminal law.

You have extra rights if you have used your credit card to buy goods which are then found to be faulty.

You can claim your money back from the credit card company if the goods are worth more than £100 but less than £30,000.

Most credit card companies will insist that you first try to get your money back from the trader. If the trader has gone out of business, you still have a means of getting your money back.


Consumer Protection Act
If you are injured by a defective item you have bought then you claim for compensation using this Act.

This claim is usually against the manufacturer. This is a very complicated process and you should always get advice first.


Unsolicited Goods Act
It is illegal for a trader to threaten you for payment of goods that you have not ordered. It is this Act which protects you.

If you receive unsolicited goods, then you can:

  • Keep them for six months before disposing of them
  • Contact the seller and tell them about delivery. The retailer then has one month to recover the goods.

Always keep a note of all communication with the trader.


Buying goods – do you have a valid complaint?

Be clear whether you have a defective item or you have just made an unwise shopping decision. If you have just changed your mind you have no legal rights to demand your money back. However, some shops may offer to give your money back, exchange the goods or give a credit note out of good will. They have no legal obligation to do so.

Before going any further ask yourself:

  • Were you told about a defect when you bought the goods?
  • Was the defect obvious?
  • Did you buy the goods more than six years ago?
  • Did you damage the goods yourself?
  • Did you change your mind?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of the questions you have no legal rights and you should go no further.


Buying goods – making your complaint

If you think you have a valid complaint:

  • check that the item is goods and not a service
  • be clear exactly what the problem is
  • think about what arguments the trader might use to avoid their responsibilities and how you would respond
  • make sure you have you not ‘accepted’ the goods?
  • return to the shop as soon as possible
  • take your receipt or proof of purchase with you
  • speak to the manager or someone else in authority
  • take the name of the person you deal with in case of further problems
  • say what the problem is and how you wish it to be dealt with
  • make a written note of what is agreed
  • keep calm and be firm.


  • What’s the problem?  Ask yourself the following questions:
  • How long have you had the goods?
  • Have you used the goods?
  • What kind of fault is it?
  • Does the fault make the item useless?
  • If the item is brand new, did you examine it before purchase?
  • Was the fault pointed out to you?
  • Are you the buyer or was it a present?
  • How did you purchase the goods? Was it from a retailer, or was it a private sale?


  • Receipts: — You do not need to have kept your receipt but you will need proof of purchase. This could be a bank statement or credit card bill. If you have paid in cash you will not have proof, other than the receipt.

Tip: Keep your receipts, so you can show where and when you bought the goods in case a problem arises.

Your Choices :- Be clear about what you want and what you may be entitled to:

  • a full refund
  • repair
  • replacement
  • compensation.


Remember:- if you return the goods because they are faulty, you do not have to accept a credit note, replacement or repair. You are not entitled to a replacement or repair but retailers often offer them. If you decide that a repair is the best option then you must make it clear that you are reserving your right to reject it if the repair is not satisfactory. It’s a good idea to get this in writing.

If you have ‘accepted’ the goods then you need to decide what you want the trader to provide.


What can I do if I am not satisfied?

  • Outline your complaint and give dates and names.
  • State what you want and how soon.
  • Include a copy of receipts.
  • Keep copies of the letter and proof of postage.


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