Your rights under Sale of Goods Act

I'm Fergus Muirhead and I'm here to answer any questions you may have about any money or consumer issues.

I get asked lots of consumer queries here and some have easier answers than others.

In some cases the Sale of Goods Act is quite clear where responsibilities lie, and in others the answer is less clear-cut, and from time to time involves not so good news to listeners and viewers who write to me.

I've gone through the archive this week for a selection of questions to prove that point.

The first two show where you can clearly use the law to your advantage while the second two are more problematic.

The important point to make is that if you are in doubt then ask - either by going back to the retailer or supplier that has caused you a problem, or by sending me an email at

You can also read more on money and consumer issues on my own blog.

Q. I was always told that if you have faulty goods then your warranty was with the shop you bought the goods from. However, both myself and friends have found that when you return a mobile phone to the shop you bought it at you're told to return it to the manufacturer at your own expense. Is this correct? Brian Millar

A. The simple answer to this is that you can return faulty goods to either the retailer or the manufacturer. The retailer can be responsible because your contract under Sale of Goods legislation is with them and the manufacturer because for the first 12 months or so after purchase you are likely to be covered by a manufacturer's warranty.

In most cases it makes sense to take faulty goods back to the retailer and you shouldn't be fobbed off if you are told that it is nothing to do with them.

As another option, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act you may have a claim against the credit card company if you paid for your faulty goods using a credit card, and the goods cost more than £100 but less than £30,000.

Q. Eighteen months ago I purchased a laptop. I did not take out an extended warranty. In March, four months after the one-year warranty expired, the motherboard gave up the ghost, and I had the laptop checked at a local dealer. Do I have the right to invoke the Sale of Goods Act, and ask for either a replacement or a refund?

A. When you buying something like your laptop, there are two ways that you are protected if something goes wrong. Firstly, as you say, you were provided with a warranty from the manufacturer that lasts one year from the date of purchase. On top of this, and not instead of, you are also protected by the Sale of Goods Act, which says that the goods you buy have to be "fit for purpose, as described, and of satisfactory quality".

If something goes wrong in the first six months then there is an assumption, unless the retailer can prove otherwise, that the fault was there at the point of sale. If the fault appears later, as in your case, then you need to be able to show the retailer that the fault is due to a defective computer rather than to wear and tear, and it may be that the report you got from your local dealer supports this.

You should take the report to the shop and explain that the life of your computer motherboard should be more than 16 months and that you feel that the computer must have had some sort of fault from the beginning, and you would like it to be dealt with.

It would be useful to do some research before you go to find out the expected life of the motherboard on your machine. You can make a claim under Sale of Goods legislation for up to six years from the point of sale in England and Wales, and five years in Scotland.

Q. I went to a promotional evening at my local beauty salon, and was encouraged to buy a programme of three treatments to help repair my sun-damaged face. This was October last year. It was a three for two deal and cost £650. I paid on my credit card, and my friend did the same. Since then we have both decided that we think the treatment is too risky, we no longer would like the treatments, and have asked for the credit card to be reimbursed. My friend had her card reimbursed, but they have refused to do mine, as I have not been a loyal long-term customer like my friend (in other words it was a gesture of goodwill for her). This is quite ridiculous, as I have been to the salon on and off for 10 years or more. Have I any rights to get my money back, do you know please? Veronica Bartyla

A. I'm sorry to say that I think the short answer to your question is no. My understanding of your email is that there is nothing "wrong" with the treatment that you purchased, other than the fact that you now believe it is 'too risky'.

Effectively then you have changed your mind and as such you have no right of redress under sale of goods and services legislation, unless you can prove that there is something unsafe about the treatment and that it should be withdrawn.

It does seem rather unfair that your friend should have been able to negotiate a refund and you haven't, but to be honest that is within the retailer's rights since they are under no obligation to refund your money unless you can prove that the treatment you purchased is unsafe, or not as described.

If you have simply changed your mind, then it is up to the beauty salon owner to decide how to proceed. Sorry!

Q. We booked a bus tour to London with a bus company but we could not go as we were snowed in. They refused to refund any money and our insurance refused to pay as we did not miss the bus. If we had missed the bus they would have paid for accommodation for a night and the transport to get to London. I think the bus company should refund at least part of the cost as they are not invoiced for the hotel in London until after they use the rooms. What are my rights? Patricia Massa

A. From the way you have worded your question, I'm not sure how you booked your trip and if you booked the bus journey and the hotel separately. If that is the case then there are two parts to my answer.

The hotel would no doubt have had some sort of cancellation policy depending on the type of room you booked - some arrangements allow unlimited cancellations, some up to 14:00 the day before the booking, while some won't refund if you make any changes to the booking at all.

As far as the cost of the bus is concerned it would depend on the terms and conditions of the agreement you had with the bus firm in the first instance. If they are refusing to pay because as far as they are concerned the bus left on time and it was you that was late, not the bus, then a claim against your insurance company would be the only other option.

Whether they are prepared to pay out or not would depend on the contract you have with them as far as "cancellation" is concerned and, as thousands of travellers found out to their cost earlier this year when volcanic ash delayed flights, quite often this type of "problem" is not covered.

Sorry I can't be the bearer of better news. Of course it may be that what you say is correct regarding the hotel booking and the bus company didn't actually pay since the room wasn't used and they weren't invoiced.

While I don't think it's likely to have happened that way, it would be worth a letter to the bus company explaining your situation and asking for at least the cost of your accommodation to be refunded.

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