sale of goodsWe have all been in shops and seen the images like the one on the right. The business tells the customer that they can't return an item if they change their mind, however this doesn't affect your legal rights. But what are your legal rights as a consumer and can the shop really stop you returning an item if you change your mind?

Let's start with the first issue. Can the shop stop you returning the item if you are to change your mind? Yes is the answer, if the item has been bought in person. If not and you have made the purchase over the internet or telephone then The Distance Selling Regulations come into effect and offer the customer "a cooling off period".

The Distance Selling Regulations actually state;

"The Distance Selling Regulations state that your right to cancel an order starts the moment you place your order and doesn't end until seven working days from the day after you receive your goods."

There are some goods you can't return if you simply change your mind, including:

  • CDs, DVDs or software if you've broken the seal on the wrapping
  • perishable and other items that deteriorate rapidly such as food and flowers
  • tailor-made or personalised goods
  • underwear and earrings

Now when you buy any item from a business, your purchases are covered by what is known as "The Sale of Goods Act". This piece of legislation is typically confused by customers who don't understand what they are entitled to from the law?

Lets take a look at what the Sale of Goods Act actually states;

Customers do have a legal right to a refund, repair or replacement if an item they purchased;

  • Items are not as described
  • Items are not of satisfactory quality
  • Items are not fit for purpose

If you believe as a customer you have an item that falls into these categories, then it is probably most likely you could return the item under the Sale of Goods Act. Don't be affraid of returining items using the consumer law that exists to protect you as a customer. If a business fails to respond to your request and you believe you have a strong case, then you may want to consider pursuing your action in the small claims courts.

The law actually covers your purchases for up to 6 years! This doesn't mean every item has to last for 6 years and doesn't include wear and tear, however it does protect you if the item you purchase fails after 4 years and realistically this purchase should last much longer than this time frame. A good example of this would be washing machine, which many experts suggest should last around 10 years.

Clearly for a business the law creates increased costs and great pressure on ensuring that the quality of the product will not cause problems for the organisation in the longer term. If a business was to get this wrong then the cost of the bad PR could damage the brand image, reputation and loyalty of the organisation. This is why many organisations aim to ensure they offer high quality customer service.