If you have experienced problems buying a sofa or having one upholstered, then you are not alone. Complaints relating to sofas feature significantly in Consumer Direct’s top ten and the problem shows no sign of improving. So what do you need to watch out for and what are your rights?

Cooling off?

Buying a sofa is a big commitment, particularly if you have signed a credit agreement to spread the cost over several years. The first thing to be aware of is that any contract you make in-store will be legally binding from the moment you sign. You cannot simply wander back in the next day and tell them you’ve changed your mind. Cooling off rights only apply where you have bought the item by mail order – over the phone, or via the internet. And even then, it does not apply where sofas have been made to order – which is often the case.

Ordering and delivery

An approximate lead time will be given in your order. Although this is not legally binding, it shouldn’t take much longer than this. If you are experiencing what you would consider to be an unreasonable delay, you can make ‘time of the essence’ by writing to them, requesting they fulfil their contractual obligations within a specific time period (14 days), otherwise you will end the contract and request the return of any sums already paid.

As any sofa retailer will tell you, they cannot be held responsible if the unit is too big for the room, won’t fit through the door or up the stairs. Neither will they be liable for the cost of removing windows etc and are within their rights to charge an additional fee if they have to take it away again. It may seem like an obvious point, but the number of people who do not measure the doorframe in relation to the sofa is quite astonishing. Similarly, those in three-storey homes with a first floor lounge, should make additional allowances for a winding staircase.

Your consumer rights

Any sofa you buy should be of satisfactory quality, fit for the purposes specified and as described. Therefore, if it is described as leather, that’s exactly what it should be. If it described as a particular colour or fabric, it should not differ widely from this. If it a sofa-bed, it should function as a bed as well as a sofa. It should also remain in good condition for a reasonable length of time without sagging, coming apart, or deterioration to the fabric.  Just because you have had the sofa for some time, this does not prevent you from making a complaint on the basis of premature or excessive wear and tear.

If you are making a complaint, the retailer will always be your first and only port of call, and not the manufacturer. Retailers may also try to tell you that there is nothing they can do because you are outside your warranty period, or because you don’t have one. A warranty is irrelevant where quality and durability are concerned, and you have the right to a remedy under Sale of Goods.

The trader’s obligations

If the sofa which has been delivered is damaged, of poor quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, you have the right to reject it and claim a refund. However, where a repair is feasible, you must allow the trader the opportunity to do this in the first instance. The trader must cover the costs of the repair (including collection and re-delivery) and must not take too long.  If a repair cannot be carried out, or has been poorly carried out, if it has taken an unreasonable length of time, or if you have experienced significant inconvenience, you are then within your rights to request a replacement. If neither a repair or a replacement can be effected, you can then ask for a discount on the purchase price or your money back.