Has a shop ever tried to fob you off when buying or returning an item? This is a free wallet-sized consumer rights mini-guide, designed so you can print it out and instantly refer to your legal rights.
Just keep it with you and you'll be armed with the correct law and rules, and can even show it to the retailer to prove you're in the right.
POLITELY quote the rules to the shop staff if you need to
See expanded info on the rules below
The aim of the pull out guide is to give you the condensed crucial facts. Below are more details, including the relevant time periods and how to enact your rights.
Yet even these are just the beginning, for much more detailed guidance see the full Consumer Rights guide.
Know you're a SAD FART!
It's important to know your basic statutory shopping rights. So to help remember them, just think of the SAD FART technique, as by law goods are faulty if they're not of...
And this is true even if you buy items during a sale or with discount vouchers.
If you're wondering what a 'reasonable length of time' is, an example should help. It's probably not reasonable for a £2,000 plasma TV to break after nine months, but is for a 50p torch.
Sadly many shop staff don't know these rules so the real issue is how you enforce them. Follow the three P plan: be patient, polite and persistent. Quote the rights and say, "according to the Sales of Goods Act 1979" (or if it's a service the "Supply of Goods and Services 1982 Act"). It'll make a powerful impression but, ultimately, if the shop refuses, you'd need to go to court.
The 'Dos' and 'Don'ts' when shopping
Know your stuff and you'll save £1,000s over a lifetime not having to buy duplicate goods if something goes wrong.
Whenever a new consumer shopping law is passed, we'll include the details in the free weekly MoneySaving email.
DO: Take items back as quickly as possible
If something's faulty - in other words it breaks the SAD FART rules - returning it speedily is crucial.
Within four weeks: You can usually still get a full refund as you're unlikely to be seen as having 'accepted' the goods. After that only expect an exchange, repair or part refund.
Within six months: The shop must prove the item wasn't faulty when the transaction took place. After that period you must prove it was.
DO: Write 'it's a gift' on receipts
Legally only the person who purchased the item has a right to return faulty goods. Yet, if the assistant writes on your receipt and their copy (ie the debit/credit card slip) the item's a gift and who it's for, the rights are transferred.
Of course, some shops allow recipients regardless, but it's worth doing just in case.
DO: Check it's suitable before buying
The 'as described' part of the SAD FART rules is crucial. Imagine you buy speakers for your TV, take them home and they don't connect to your specific telly. If you've proof the store said "it'll work with your TV" (take notes if possible), then the speakers aren't as described, so you can return them.
Yet if you didn't ask, and it's not specified in the manual or any other paperwork, it's your problem; not the shop's.
DO: Return it to the store, not the manufacturer
If the item breaks the SAD FART rules, your agreement's with the shop you bought it from, NOT the manufacturer. So the retailer MUST deal with it - don't let it palm you off.
DO: Ensure delivery's specified
If goods are late eg for Christmas or a birthday, you can only complain if you or the retailer specified (and you can prove) it was for specific delivery. Then it's breach of contract and you've a right to a refund. Though even if delivery isn't specified, things should be delivered within a reasonable time.
DO: Consider paying by credit card if it's over £100
Pay for £100+ goods on a credit card and the card company's jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong. This applies to gift cards and vouchers too, provided each denomination is at least £100. Though only do this if you can clear the card in full next month to avoid interest.
This gives you extra legal rights, but for full details see the Section 75 Refunds guide.
DON'T: Assume wrong sizes can be changed
Unless items break the SAD FART rules, you've no legal right for return. So don't buy clothes for someone thinking you can change the size if it doesn't fit, or colour or anything else.
Many shops will allow it, but they don't have to. Unless that is, they have a published returns policy allowing it, as then it's a contractual condition of sale, so they must obey it.
DON'T: Think buying online means fewer rights
You've more rights online (or telephone/catalogue) due to the Distance Selling Rules. This gives a legal right to send most goods back within a week, for a full refund, even if there's no fault. Though you'll usually need to pay for the return delivery.
DON'T: Think 'no receipt' means 'no return'
With faulty goods, you simply need proof of purchase.
This could be the receipt, but any other legitimate record (eg a bank statement) should be fine.
However, if you have no legal right and are just utilising a store's returns policy; if it requires a receipt, you need it.
DON'T: Think buying from eBay gives fewer rights
Buy from a trader who makes some or all of their living selling on eBay and you've the full Sad Fart rights. However, buy from an occasional private seller and as long as the goods are as described, the only rule is 'let the buyer beware'.
DON'T: Think you've no rights with freebies
If a freebie comes as part of a purchase, for example a bike with a gym membership contract, you've exactly the same Sad Fart rights regarding the freebie as if you'd bought it.
It's all about expectations, as well as rights
Even if you don't have a legal right, companies' reputations depend on giving decent service. So you can always ask - and tell them you're disappointed if they don't help.