A Guide to Your Consumer Rights to Refunds and Repairs

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What You Need to Know

  1. If you buy an items from a private seller – for example off an ad on Gumtree or in the local newspaper – then you will have fewer rights; the items only have to match the description given by the seller for them to be covered.
  2. You can ask for repair or replacement of any goods within six years of buying them, or within five years in Scotland.
  3. If you look to claim a refund within six months of the purchase and the trader disputes that the goods were faulty, it is the their responsibility to provide proof.
  4. If you have had an item for more than six months, the onus may be placed on you to prove it was faulty at the time of purchase.
  5. You will not be entitled to a refund or repair if you were the cause of a fault to an item. So, if you dropped your phone or didn’t follow the care instructions for a new jumper, then your can forget about a refund.
  6. A warranty may give you extra rights, even allowing you to get a refund or replacement item if you were the cause of a fault. If all else fails, check your home insurance policy.
  7. If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of a dispute, get in touch with Consumer Direct who will advise you if you can take your case further.
  8. If a trader agrees to repair an item or to provide a replacement, they must do this in a reasonable period of time, without causing you any significant inconvenience.

For starters, any items you’re supplied by a trader, whether you’re on the high street or shopping online, have to be:

  • As described.
  • Fit for purpose.
  • Of satisfactory quality.

If they are not all of the above, then you should be legally entitled to a replacement, a refund or to have the item in question repaired.

The responsibility for rectifying such problems lies with the trader and not the manufacturer, although, you will often have the option to claim against the manufacturer’s guarantee, should the product have one.

Getting a Full Refund

The law states that when you buy goods they have to be of a good quality. This means they should be free of any compromising faults. They must also fulfil the purpose for which they are intended and be accurately described. If the item does not meet one or more of these criteria you are well within your rights to claim a full refund.

Note that you should make the supplier aware of a problem with an item as soon as possible, ideally within a few days or a couple of weeks maximum. Leaving it any longer can mean that you are deemed to have ‘accepted’ the item in question, taking away your right to a full refund. You should also stop using the goods as soon as you identify a fault.

However, there are certain conditions under which these rights do not apply. If you bought the goods from a private individual, you are only legally allowed to claim a refund if they were inaccurately described when sold to you. Even then you must also inform the trader as soon as the fault is discovered.

When You May Not Get a Full Refund

In certain scenarios the trader may not offer you a full refund. For instance;

  • If you have used the item.
  • If you tried to repair the item yourself.
  • If you took too long to inform the trader of the fault.

In cases listed above the trader may refuse you a full refund. However they could offer you partial compensation, a repair or an exchange in lieu of a full refund, depending on the circumstances.

Normally, how much use you’ve had from the item will be an important factor in determining how fully they’ll compensate you. How long the item should last should also be taken into consideration. For instance if a fridge where to break after just three months a trader should probably pay for the whole repair, whereas if the same fault developed after a couple of years, you might have to contribute to the cost of the work.

When Items Can't Be Repaired

If repairing an item is unfeasible, for example if it would cost too more than the item is worth ,or if repairs would take too long to carry out, then they can offer you a partial refund based on the initial value of the item minus any market depreciation and wear and tear. This means that, once again, how much use you’ve had from the item will be important in determining how much they’ll reduce the price for you.

Alternatively, a trader may also offer you a credit note, allowing you to return the faulty item and buy something else of the same value.

Remember, if a trader offers you one of the above compromises, or if they tell you to claim on the manufacturer’s guarantee you do not have to accept their decision. If you still believe you should be receiving a full refund the case can be taken to court to enforce your consumer rights, though it is wise to seek out legal advice to ensure that you have a strong case before beginning proceedings. Bear in mind that if you do accept a compromise, you cannot then change your mind.

Finally, if you yourself have caused the fault you will not be entitled to any form of compensation from the trader (unless you also brought a warranty from them which covers the damage.) You may also be able to claim compensation through an insurance or the manufacturer’s guarantee.

(Note that these guidelines only apply to items bought in the UK. If the item has been bought in the European Union, it is best to contact the <href="http://www.euroconsumer.org.uk">UK European Consumer Centre.)

Further Reading

  • Check out the DirectGov guide to your rights and returning faulty items here.
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau also offers a comprehensive guide to your consumer rights.
Julia Julia

I have a mobile HTC phone on contract, which I've had since Aug last year. I've had various problems with it since I got it, which my provider is aware of, but 2 weeks ago it started turning on and off and wouldn't respond to any touch commands. I contacted my provider who eventually sent a courier to collect it to see if it could be repaired (under Warranty) they left me with a spare phone, which is nothing like my own phone, more like a brick and I was forced to purchase a cheap bog standard phone so I could continue to have mobile phone contact. I've now been in touch with my provider again to see when I'm going to get my phone repaired or a replacement. They have told me it will be ready in approx 10 days, making it 3 weeks in total since the problem started. I'm not at all happy but cannot close my contract as it will cost me over £140. I asked how long the repair will be guaranteed for and was told 6 moths, the length of time the phone warranty has to left to run. Shouldn't the repair be guaranteed for 12mnths and do I have to accept this? Sorry this is so long.

ray ray

hi we bought a lg tv used tv from bright house in hyde cheshire for 11 pound per week 12 months ago we havnt missed a payment the screen broke 9months into the buy we went notified them imedieately they lcame collected tv 1 week later and left us with no replacement tv at all for that week it has sinse taken them 3months to repair it when they came and brought it back to us when they opend it , it was smashed and broken again so they took it back and left us with a small 37 inch faulty tv and have been paying for a 47inch tv also we had two take out there insurance and have been paying this also and are still paying for an item we dont have the customer care is rude and disrespectfull to the customer im a disabled man who just wants what we are paying for can any1 help please ray and joanne

lauren lauren

I brought a bracelet from a shop in croydon and the strings where too long so i took it back five mins later and there refund policy states that you can refund in 7 days i took a picture of there refund policy but i went back in with the recipt and they refused to give a refund companys name and owbers name.


Phone stopped working once I downloaded new operating platform as they advised me to do to improve functionality of the phone. When I complained I was told that I should have read the terms and conditions which clearly say that this could happen. I was than offered a new phone for £119

UK Net Guide UK Net Guide

That sounds like a return rather than a case where you're entitled to a refund. It will probably depend on the vendor.

Mo Mo

Hi,i wonder if i have got the right to claim a full refund for
the goods wich i've just bought 10 minute earlier..!!??
(Reason: simply changed my mind)
Is there a point of law that clarifies the time scale of this
issue??? Please HELP!!!


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