Research and analysis

Consumer remedies for faulty goods

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Every year millions of consumers return faulty goods to the shop or supplier, but the law is complex. There are two legal regimes: (1) Under traditional UK law, consumers are entitled to reject the goods and receive a full refund (‘the right to reject’), provided they act within ‘a reasonable time’. (2) This has been supplemented by the European 1999 Consumer Sales Directive, which states that consumers are entitled to a repair or replacement. If the retailer is unable to repair or replace the goods in a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience, the consumer may then ask for a refund (‘rescission’) or a reduction in price. There has been little attempt to integrate these two regimes. Consumers may use either, leading to confusion and complexity. The European Commission’s proposal for a new directive on consumer rights would reform the law in this area and remove the right to reject. The Commissions recommend that the right to reject should be kept as a short-term remedy of first instance. It is a simple remedy which inspirers consumer confidence. Consumers should normally exercise the right to reject within 30 days, and should be entitled to ask for a refund or price reduction after one failed repair or one failed replacement; or where the goods have proved dangerous. Other recommendations cover: right to reject for minor defects; rescission and the ‘deduction for use’; proposed two-year cut-off; better integration of the two regimes.

Related publications and all Law Commission reports, consultation papers and announcements are available on the Law Commission website.

This Command Paper was laid before Parliament by a Government Minister by Command of Her Majesty. Command Papers are considered by the Government to be of interest to Parliament but are not required to be presented by legislation.

Published 4 November 2009