How The Law Protects You

NI Direct

The law protects you when you are buying goods, digital content and services. Know your rights when goods or digital content are faulty, or when services are not done with reasonable care and skill. You’re also protected from unfair terms in contracts.

Buying goods

By law, goods you buy must be:

  • of a satisfactory quality
  • fit for a particular purpose
  • as described
  • installed correctly, if installation was agreed as part of the contract

Satisfactory quality

Satisfactory quality means the goods should meet the standard a reasonable person regards as satisfactory taking into account:

  • the description of the goods
  • the price
  • all other relevant circumstances

Quality of the goods covers:

  • condition including appearance and finish
  • freedom from minor defects
  • safety
  • durability

Fit for purpose

Fit for purpose means that the goods should work and fulfil all uses which the goods are supplied to do. For example, a refrigerator is fit for purpose if, when it is switched on, it keeps food and drinks consistently cool.

As described

If you ask for a product with a particular function or brand name, the trader must sell you this or advise if they don't have the product as described. For example, if you ask for a colour laser printer and they sell you a black and white printer and tell you it is a colour printer, the goods are not as described.

Your rights

If the goods you receive aren’t of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, don’t match or aren’t installed correctly, you have 30 days to return them and get a full refund. You will have fewer days to return the goods if they are highly perishable, for example food items.

Repaired or replacement goods

If you ask for a repair or replacement during the 30 day return period, you will have the rest of the period or seven days (whichever is longer) to check if you are happy with the repair or replacement and to decide if you want to keep it.

If you claim a repair or replacement, the trader must do this:

  • at no cost to you
  • within a reasonable time
  • without causing you significant inconvenience

The trader must cover any reasonable cost of returning the goods except where you are returning to the place you bought them. You don't have to return the goods to this place unless this was agreed from the outset as part of the contract. For example, if you have to hire a van to return bulky furniture to the shop where it was bought, you could claim for the hire cost of the van.

In some cases, you may be able to claim some or all of the cost of returning the goods to the place you bought them. For example, if the car you are returning breaks down and you have to pay for a break down service to return it.

You don't have to give the trader lots of chances to repair or replace the goods. If after just one failed try at repair or replacement, or the repair or replacement isn't given to you within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience, you can claim a price cut or reject the goods and get a refund.

Discounts and refunds

If the repair or replacement isn't suitable, available or supplied within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience, you can choose to keep the goods or to reject them.

If you choose to keep the goods, you can ask for a discount on the price of the goods. The discount can be any amount, up to the full cost of the goods, but it must be reasonable given the circumstances of your claim.

If you reject the goods and return them, you can claim a refund. Your refund can be less to take into account any use you have had from the goods, but it can’t be less if you have held onto the goods simply because the trader has delayed collecting them. Nor can your refund be less where the goods are rejected within six months of getting them, except where the goods are a motor vehicle.

The refund must be given within 14 days of the trader agreeing that you are entitled to it.

Hired goods

If you've hired goods, you can claim a refund for any part of the hire that was paid for but not supplied. You will also be released from other obligations under the contract, for example, any remaining instalments to be paid for a hire purchase contract.

Right to claim

If you discover a fault within six months of delivery, you can only get a repair, replacement, price cut or use your final right to reject if the fault was there at the time of delivery. 

You can't claim:

  • for any damage you cause
  • if you were made aware of the fault before you bought the goods
  • for any obvious fault you would have seen if you examined the goods before you bought them
  • if you change your mind about the goods you’ve bought
  • for faults that appear as a result of fair wear and tear

You can't claim if you buy something for a particular purpose that it's not obviously made for, unless the trader has told you it's suitable for that purpose. For example, if you buy a hedge trimmer and then break it attempting to cut down a tree, you can't claim unless the trader told you it could cut down trees.

Goods older than six months

If you've had the goods for six months or more, you must prove the fault was there at the time of buying or delivery. Some faults won’t appear until sometime after delivery, and in these cases it is enough to prove that there was an underlying or hidden fault at that time.

Complaints about the supply of goods or services

If you aren't satisfied with goods or services supplied by a trader, you should give them a chance to put things right. You need to show you have been reasonable in case you go to court later. If you bring in another trader without giving the original trader an opportunity to put things right, a court may:

  • might decide this was unreasonable
  • might not allow you to claim back the cost from the first trader

If the trader agrees to put things right, you should tell them in writing that you reserve the right to get someone else to do the work if:

  • it isn't done to a reasonable standard
  • it is not done within a reasonable time

You should keep a copy of your letter.

If the trader can't or won't put things right, you will need to get a different trader to finish the job. You can claim compensation from the first trader if this costs you more.

You may want the trader to stop work because you don't trust them to put things right. This may be because:

  • the work is unsafe or a very poor standard
  • your relationship with the trader has broken down

If you tell the trader to stop work, they may threaten to take you to court to claim compensation. You will need good reasons and evidence, if you refuse to let a trader finish a job or put it right when they are offering to do this. If the case goes to court, you may need to give evidence of bad work, such as photographs, and you may need an expert's opinion.

If a trader has done some work to a satisfactory standard you will have to pay a reasonable amount for this work. Find out more about making a complaint.

Useful resources

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