You often see signs in shops at the counter which say ‘this does not affect your statutory rights’. But what does this mean? What we are talking about here are the legal obligations of retailers and suppliers to protect consumers from fraud, poor quality, misrepresentation or economic loss. The sale of goods is subject to the inclusion of these statutory rights (or terms), whether or not a written contract exists and whether or not they are specifically mentioned at any stage. Any attempt to mislead you or deny you of them is illegal!
The seller has the right to sell
So what precisely are your statutory rights when you make a purchase? Firstly, you should expect the seller to have the right to sell the item and to be able to transfer full ownership to you. Seems an obvious point really. A second hand car dealer who sells you a stolen car does not have the right to sell that car and you would not take ownership of it, even though you have handed over the money. If the item is not owned by the seller, or the seller has not been given permission to sell the item, the contract is immediately invalidated – and you will own nothing.
It is what you expected?
Secondly, if you have bought something on the basis of the seller’s description or a sample, you should expect the item to conform exactly to that description or sample. If it does not, you have the right to reject the goods, demand a full refund and possibly claim damages. This is still the case even where you have selected or examined the items for yourself before buying them.
And finally, the most commonly cited and hotly contested of all, that of satisfactory quality. There is so much to say about this, it deserves its own section:
- How do you measure quality?
- It’s not fit for purpose
- How long should it last?
- Is the guarantee worth the paper it’s written on?
- I bought it from a bloke down the pub
- Rights when knowingly buying damaged goods
- They say I’ve taken ownership so it’s my responsibility
- Do shops have to give me my money back?
- The shop doesn’t want to know, they say it is the manufacturer’s responsibility.
- It’s second hand – do I have any rights?