A consumer by definition is a person who buys goods and services for personal use. When a consumer purchases goods from a retailer, a contract is formed. The formation of the contract is an agreement between the retailer and consumer for the provision of goods or services at a certain price. Most consumers’ rights and obligations under such contracts are contained in the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980. Under this Act, anything purchased by a consumer must be of merchantable quality, fit for its normal purpose and reasonably durable and as described, whether the description is part of the advertising or wrapping, on a label or something said by a salesperson. Furthermore, under the Liability for Defective Products Act 1991, producers are liable for injury or damage caused by their defective products or defective components, irrespective of whether the manufacturing process was in any way negligent or otherwise. It is necessary to demonstrate that an injury was sustained as a result of a defective component of the product or the product itself.
What can I do if goods I have purchased are defective?
The retailer, not the manufacturer, is responsible and is obliged to deal with any complaints. You are entitled to a refund, repair or a replacement. Shop notices such as “No refunds” or “No Exchange” cannot diminish the consumer’s statutory rights if the complaint is genuine and concerns defective goods.
However, you have no remedies if the defect is due to the misuse of the product after purchase or if the defect should have been noticed on examination or was pointed out at the time of purchase.
I bought an item but I no longer like it – What are my rights?
The consumer has no rights under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 in this instance. The retailer is under no obligation to accept the return of goods that are not in some way defective.
I received gifts that I wish to return. Can I do this?
The person who purchases goods from a retailer is the party to the contract and is therefore the person with whom the legislation is concerned. However, most retailers will let you return the product.
I wish to return an item I purchased but I’ve lost the receipt?
The main purpose of a receipt is to prove you bought the goods from a particular store so it is reasonable for a retailer to ensure that they were responsible for selling the goods before rectifying your complaint.
If you don’t have a receipt; you may have another proof of purchase such as a cheque or a credit card statement. If you can’t produce any proof of purchase you won’t be able to return the item.
I want to buy an item in the sales but there are signs in the shop that claim “Sale goods will not be exchanged” and “Goods on sale cannot be tried on”. Can the retailers do this?
The consumer’s right when buying in the sales are the same as at any other time. Your legal right is to a replacement or refund in the case of a defective item, therefore it is an offence for retailers to display notices which say “No cash refunds”, “Credit notes only” or “Sale goods not exchanged”. Such signs cannot affect your statutory rights.
Unfortunately there is no obligation on the retailer to take back goods that are not defective. Many retailers will still exchange an item once you have a receipt but they don’t have to. Likewise, retailers are not required to provide facilities for trying on clothes. However, where possible insist in order to detect any possible defects.
What rights do I have when buying from an overseas website?
When making a purchase in Ireland or another EU member state, a consumer buying from an overseas website is protected by EU Consumer legislation. The European Directive on Distance Selling and the EC Regulations 2001 aim to ensure that consumers receive a certain minimum standard of protection whether a supplier is based in the European Union, European Economic Area (EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) or Switzerland.
Under the legislation a supplier is liable if the goods in question are not genuine. If the goods are not of an acceptable standard, you may be entitled to a replacement, repair or a refund.
This is the third in a series of columns provided by the Free Legal Advice Centre.