If a product that was faulty at the time of sale is returned to the retailer, the consumer is entitled to:
- a full refund, if this is within a reasonable time of the sale (“reasonable time” is not defined in law but is often quite short, normally days)
- a reasonable amount of compensation (or “damages”) for up to six years from the date of sale (five years after discovery of the problem in Scotland).
This does not mean all goods have to last six years or that they should not go wrong during this period of time!
It is the limit for making a claim in respect of a fault that was present at the time of sale. It is not equivalent to a guarantee. These are long-established rights and they remain available to the consumer after the Regulations came into force on 31 March 2003.
Under the Regulations, consumers can choose to request instead a repair or replacement.
The retailer can decline either of these if he can show that they are disproportionately costly in comparison with the alternative. However, any remedy must also be completed without significant inconvenience to the consumer.
If neither repair nor replacement is realistically possible, consumers can request instead a partial or full refund, depending on what is reasonable in the circumstances.
It may be the case that a full refund is not the reasonable option because the consumer will have enjoyed some benefit from the goods before the problem appeared. This needs to be taken into account before a reasonable partial refund can be assessed.
Consumers can switch between certain remedies if they find they are getting nowhere down the route originally selected. However, they would have to give a retailer a reasonable time to honour a request before they tried to switch, and they could never pursue two remedies at the same time.