The Sale of Goods Act (SOGA) is a piece of legislation that is in place to protect consumers when purchasing a product or service from an organisation.

The natural way to look at this piece of legislation as being bad for organisations as it will increase costs and level of regulation, however it isn't all that bad. The legislation provides clear guidance and expectations from organisations, which can be an advantage for an organisation as it makes it clear and simple what they have to do. Following the Sale of Goods Act would usually form part of good customer service, which can add value to the product / service that is being purchased.

The Sale of Goods Act states;

"Goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose."

It is the "fit for purpose" part that is most interesting and one of the most debated but misunderstood aspects of this piece of legislation. The simple way of looking at this piece of the legislation; does the product do what it was sold to you as doing?

The interesting product that comes to mind is the case of the mobile phone. If you are sold a mobile phone on a 24 month contract and the phone was to break on month 15, can you take the phone back under the Sale of Goods Act? Most phone companies will tell you that the phone is covered for 12 months and you can buy extra insurance to protect yourself, however do you need it?

Looking at the legislation it would suggest that you would be covered by the Sale of Goods Act. If you were sold a 24 month phone contact, then it would be "reasonable" (the legal term) to expect that the mobile phone would last for entirety of this contact.

Of course you can't claim for wear and tear items, so the battery not holding the same amount of charge as when it was new, would not be covered, neither would be the fact that you could have dropped the phone and cracked the screen yourself. However if the fault was with the phone and not caused by user damage and is not "reasonable" wear and tear, then you could make a claim. There is no need for an extended warranty as the item will be covered under the Sale of Goods Act.

Who to Claim To?

This is one of the other areas that consumers often fail to understand. It is actually the responsibility of the organisation who sold you the product or service to rectify the situation. When the consumer purchased a product / service from them, they entered into a contract with this organisation, so if they try and tell you to contact the manufacturer, well technically this isn't your responsibility to do so. It may suit you to do this, however don't feel that you have to.

How long does the Sale of Goods Act apply for?

It all comes down to the term "fit for purpose". The actual time frame will differ, depending on the item that you have purchased. So a mobile phone it could be "reasonable" to expect it to last at least 2 years fault free, where as a washing machine it could be "reasonable" to expect it to last 6 years.

If you are debating the term "reasonable", the chances are that you could be looking at making a claim in the small claims court. If this is the stage that you are now at, then you should consider getting some independent expert reports to provide evidence in support of your claim. Don't be afraid of court action as if you believe you have a valid case and have the evidence, then you could find winning your case quite simple.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the Sale of Goods Act and remember this is a law that protects both consumers and organisations in the UK.

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