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In consumer contracts for the sale of goods and supply of services, certain provisions are implied by statute in order to provide protection to purchasers; the provisions derive from the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015). This Act came into force on 1 October 2015 and replaced many of the provisions contained in the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SGA 1979) and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (SGSA 1982) where there is a consumer sale.

The SGA 1979 and the SGASA 1982 have not been repealed and still apply to contracts for the sale of goods and the supply of services outside a consumer context (e.g. private sales and business-to-business transactions).

The new CRA 2015 came into force on 1 October 2015 without retrospective effect. This means that the date the consumer purchased the good will determine which legislation applies: 

  • If the good was purchased on or after 1 October 2015, then the new CRA 2015 will apply.
  • If the good was purchased on or before 30 September 2015 then the SGA 1979 will still apply.

This briefing paper provides a detailed overview of a consumer’s statutory rights to return a defective good under the SGA 1979.

In brief, the SGA 1979 imposes certain ‘implied terms’ into the contract of sale for the benefit of the consumer. For example, an important statutory implied term is the expectation that the purchased good will be of ‘satisfactory quality’. This includes fitness for any purpose specified, appearance and finish, freedom from minor blemishes, safety and durability. The failure of the product to meet any one of the implied terms may be a breach of the consumer’s statutory rights, enabling the consumer to go back to the retailer for a remedy, even after some months of use. Also outlined in legislation is the required ‘burden of proof’; the extent to which the retailer is entitled to ask a customer to prove that an item was faulty when they bought it.

The law states that a consumer can approach a retailer with a claim about a good they have purchased for up to six years from the date of sale (or five years after the discovery of the problem in Scotland). This does not mean that every good sold has to last six years; it is simply the legal cut off point for bringing a contractual claim. A consumer cannot hold a retailer responsible for fair ‘wear and tear’.

There is a separate Commons briefing paper on the new ‘Consumer Rights Act 2015’ (CBP 6588), which sets out in detail the background to the new Act and the main provisions of Parts 1 and 2. Specifically, it looks at new rules on consumer contracts for goods, digital content and services and unfair terms in consumer contracts and notices. In the process, this paper also outlines the main structural changes to consumer regulatory and enforcement bodies.

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