If you buy something and it turns out there's something wrong with it, you can ask the trader to put things right. Depending on your situation, you may have a right to some or all of your money back or to get the item repaired or replaced.
However, sometimes a trader will refuse to do what you're asking. They may have a good reason. In some situations a trader isn't responsible even if there's something wrong with the goods. But sometimes a trader may try to avoid their responsibility or say there's nothing wrong with the goods. If this happens, you may need to get an expert opinion or take the matter further.
If the fault was caused by an accident, for example you dropped something and it broke or you spilt something on the item and it stained, the trader doesn't have to give you your money back or put things right.
If there were no warnings or care instructions and you think this caused the accidental damage or affected what happened, you may be able to argue that the trader is responsible. But be realistic about what is reasonable. You shouldn't need to be warned about things that are obvious.
If you have household insurance, check whether it covers accidental damage.
If you didn’t take care of the goods properly
If something is damaged because you didn't look after it properly, the trader won't have to give you your money back or a repair or replacement. An example of this is if you used your mobile phone in the bath and dropped it.
Mis-using the goods
A trader isn't responsible for damage or faults if you used the goods for something they're not meant for. An example of this if you used your home vacuum cleaner to clean up industrial waste.
Wear and tear
If the fault or damage you're complaining about has been caused by ordinary wear and tear, the trader doesn't have to give you your money back or a repair or replacement. What’s reasonable will depend on the type of goods, how long you’ve had them and how much you’ve used them.
Some natural materials such as wood, leather, silk, linen or marble, may have natural imperfections which affect the look or feel of the item. You won’t be able to claim the goods are faulty just because of the appearance or finish.
Goods sold as 'seconds'
A trader may refuse to take back goods if they were sold as seconds. Seconds are goods which are generally of a lower quality than usual. The trader may argue that this means the goods were faulty when sold. The trader may even have marked the goods 'sold as seen'.
If the trader points out a fault before you buy the goods, you can't say later you don't want them. But the trader must point out that particular fault. If you find a different fault later, you will still be able to take the goods back.
If a fault comes and goes
You may feel that something is faulty but the trader is genuinely unable to find anything wrong. If this happens, try to get evidence of what the fault is to help explain it and as evidence that something's wrong. Evidence could include:
- taking a photograph or video of what happens
- keeping a diary of when the fault happens and what you were doing with the item immediately beforehand
- looking online for examples of consumers who have had similar problems. You may pick up some tips on what’s causing the fault or for getting it resolved. Or it may indicate a more widespread design problem.
Getting an expert opinion
If the trader won't agree to put things right, you may need to get an expert opinion to back up your claim. But be careful, a formal opinion can be very expensive. It may be better to see if you can get an informal opinion first, for example from other traders.
If you do decide to get an independent report, talk to the trader and try to agree who will pay for it. Unless the court has instructed you to get an expert report, there is no guarantee you'll get your money back even if you agree with the trader in advance.
If you have to pay part or all of the cost, agree with the seller in advance about the choice of expert and that you will both be bound by the expert's findings.