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Faulty goods - if you want your money back

If there's something wrong with something you've bought, you normally have the right to return it and get all your money back. The law which gives you this right is called the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

This page explains when you have the right to a refund and what you should do to get one.

When can you get a refund?

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 says that any goods you buy from a trader must be:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose
  • match any description given.

If  they aren’t, you normally have the right to return the goods and get all your money back. This is called a full refund. A full refund includes the cost of all postage and packing.

This right only lasts for a very short time after you buy the goods. You’re allowed a short time to examine them and try them out, but you must tell the trader about the problem as soon as you find out about it.

When you won't be able to get all your money back

If you’ve had the goods for a while, used them or changed them in some way, you might not have the right to a full refund. This is called accepting the goods. Even if you’ve accepted the goods, you might still have the right to get some of your money back, or to a repair or replacement instead.

If you aren’t entitled to a refund, you may still be able to negotiate with the trader to give you one. If the trader agrees to take the goods back, it’s your responsibility to make sure the goods don’t get damaged in transit. You’ll also have to pay any costs of postage and delivery.

When you may be able to get some of your money back

You may be able to get some of your money back when:

  • you’ve had goods for a while, used them or changed them in some way
  • you’ve decided to keep goods, as you can’t buy them anywhere else, even if you could get a refund
  • the goods have a minor defect.

What money can you get back

The amount of money you can get back must make up for:

  • the loss in value because you’ve not been able to get as much use out of the goods as you should have
  • the cost of having the goods repaired by another party if the trader is unable to arrange the repair
  • loss of use when the goods have been taken away for repair for an unreasonable length of time.

If the goods were supplied with a service or custom made

You can send back goods which were custom made for you if there’s something wrong with them. For example, if  you had a made-to-measure suit which you were told would be wool, you can send it back and ask for a full refund if the material used was not wool or a wool mixture.

Sometimes it isn’t practical to return faulty goods if they were supplied with a service. For example, you may have had a carpet fitted which is faulty. If you’re in this situation, you can ask the trader to remove the faulty goods free of charge. If the trader refuses to remove the goods, you can ask someone else to remove them and claim back the cost from the trader. You may have to go to court to get your money back.

If you have to keep the goods until the trader comes to remove them, you’re responsible for taking reasonable care of them. If the trader doesn’t collect the goods in reasonable time, you may be able to dispose of them, as long as you follow a set procedure.

If you bought goods in batches or instalments

If you’ve bought a batch of goods and there’s a problem with some of them, you don’t have to send back the whole batch. You can accept the ones that are satisfactory and send back the others.

If you’ve bought goods to be delivered in instalments, you can send back individual instalments even if you’ve accepted earlier ones. For example, if you buy a subscription to a series of ten magazines, you can reject  issue 5 if it’s not satisfactory, even if you’ve already accepted the first four issues. You’d have to pay for any magazines you keep and allow the trader to collect any that you want to send back. You can also send back all  the magazines and ask for your money back, even if some were satisfactory.

What to do

Stop using the goods as soon as you realise there's a problem.

Tell the trader about the fault straight away. If you contact the trader early on and prepare your case well, you're more likely to be successful.

Take the goods back to the place you bought them with your proof of purchase, and ask to speak to the manager or owner.

If you can't return the item, for example because it's too big or if you bought the goods online, by telephone or mail order, contact the trader and sort out returning the goods later. You can contact the trader face to face or by phone or email. Whichever you do, it's a good idea to keep a record of what's said and confirm what you agree in writing.

You may also have the right to claim additional compensation for things like the cost of repairing or replacing other items that were damaged by faulty goods – for example if clothes were ruined by a faulty washing machine. This is called  compensation for consequential loss.

How should a refund be paid?

If you’re entitled to a refund, it’s normal for this to be given in the same way as you originally paid. For example, if you paid in cash, you’d normally be given a refund in cash. However, this isn’t required by law.

If the trader won’t give you your money back

If the trader won’t give you your money back, there may be other ways you can sort the problem out or you may need to make a formal complaint.

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