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‘This does not affect your statutory rights’ – what it really means

This does not affect your statutory rights – what it really means

Seven little words, one GIANT confusion. The sign’s everywhere yet many customers and staff don’t have a clue what it means.

If we all understood the law a little better it’d mean less friction in-store (it’s fine to be firm and polite and assert your rights, but rude is out of order). A couple of weeks ago just such a moment occurred with me, when someone tried to incorrectly pass off my rights (see Shop staff quoted nonsense rights at me blog).

Thankfully as, of course, it’s part of my job, I didn’t fall for it, but every consumer should try and have at least the basic rights in their mental arsenal. The key is to understand there are two main factors at play:

  • Shops’ own returns policy. Buy something in a store and UNLESS it’s faulty, you have NO LEGAL RIGHT to return it – changing your mind doesn’t cut it (you’ve more rights online where you’ve a legal seven-day-no-quibble right of return).

    Yet, to protect reps, many stores DO allow it under their returns policies, but then their rules are gospel. However, if the returns policy is published it’s a legal part of your purchase &˜contract so they’re bound by it.

  • Your statutory rights. When goods are faulty many staff wrongly think their returns policies still rule, but here THE LAW takes over.

    All goods must obey the Sale of Goods Act 1979, which, for memory ease, I call the SAD FART rules. All goods must be of …

    Satisfactory quality, ADescribed, Fit for purpose, And last a Reasonable length of Time.

    If not, they’re legally faulty- return them quickly enough and you’ve a legal right to a FULL refund (for a full explanation of all the minutiae of this see the full Consumer Right) guide.

So here are some of the most common things you’re told and whether they’re right or wrong in each circumstance.

Store-bought goods – true or false?
Shop staff say our policy is… If goods aren’t faulty Faulty goods
Returns only with receipt True False. Legally you only need proof of purchase, so credit card/bank statements just as good
Can’t be returned used True False. If you only found out the fault by using it.
Wrong size is your problem. True True.  It isn’t a fault (unless they guaranteed it’d fit you or size is mislabelled)
No returns on sales goods True False. You’ve the same rights in sales as any other time – discounts are irrelevant
No returns on second hand True False. You’ve the same rights, though what counts as ‘satisfactory quality’ is reduced
We only give credit notes True False.  If returned quickly enough, you’re entitled to a full refund.
Contact the manufacturer for repair N/A False.  Your contract is with the store – it must sort it
No return on underwear True False. Knickers to anyone who says different.
Must come in original box True False.
Must still have tags on True False.
No returns if credit-note bought True False. You retain your rights.

The key is to ensure you know them. To start, print the Free Consumer Rights Wallet Guide so if you’re stuck in-store you’re only a piece of paper away from the correct answer.


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22 Responses to “‘This does not affect your statutory rights’ – what it really means”

  1. Sophia Danielsson-Waters says:

    Oh my god I worked at a shop and we were always told we had to send things back to the manufacturer etc. I feel like I’ve been lied to! I will print this off for whenever I want to return thing

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great :) One question – what about products within their guarantee or contract – eg a mobile phone that’s been replaced several times – can you break contract/request a new sort?

  3. What if you get a replacement for a faulty item but it subsequently turns out that the replacement is also faulty? I’ve been told that your rights are counted as if they start from the *original* purchase date, not the date of replacement. Is this true?

  4. This is really interesting and pertinent to me as I’m about to return something on ebay which is faulty but hasn’t got the packaging still! Watch this space! Thanx

  5. Well, that has cleared some of my misconceptions. Thank you, Martin.

  6. Intruder says:

    You’ve missed the biggy which people often forget – what if something fails after 367 days! 

    A TV works for years, my 1990 telly is still going strong in the kitchen, but if a standard component on my 2 year old LCD breaks – is that reasonable? What is a reasonable length of time, if the consensus was comparable LCD tellies normally work for, say, 5 years – can I claim under statutory “last a Reasonable length of Time”?

  7. Andrew Riley says:

    I have found Sports Direct the worst for this. No matter what the problem, they will only refund you to a sports direct plastic card.
    I just dont bother going there anymore.

  8. What about if the product is bought with a discount because it was already faulty, but then something different happens to the item which makes it even more faulty? In some stores they say after there has been a discount for the first fault the item is never refundable… is this true?

  9. This list is for items bought in a shop, but what happens to other purchases? When my family visited the UK recently I discovered that the sales people selling Oyster cards at Heathrow have a fantastic rip-off racket going. They sold my family seven day cards for ALL ZONES, PEAK TIME, as that was the time the card was bought. They could have saved a fortune by buying a single ticket into London and then buying the week travel card in the city. We tried to get a refund but were told that the card had been used, and therefore no refunds could be given on the rest of the week’s worth. Any thoughts on this?

  10. Anonymous says:

    yes, its a case of “sold as seen” policy. By selling the item at a reduced rate & informing you of the 1st  fault voids the 12mth warranty as the product is already faulty. Effectively the discount gives you the money back to have it repaired & the shop still makes a sale.

  11. Gavin Milward says:

    I used this at work, Sony Vaio failed fater 18 months of use, I stated that my cheap Acer laptop is going strong at 5 years so its reasonable to estimate a £2000 laptop to last at least longer than 18 months. Got a full refund from PCWB

  12. Knickers to anyone who says different indeed. I recall recently half an hour and four levels of ‘can I speak to your manager’ in Primark, to finally get them to agree to change some underwear. The quoted the ‘no returns on underwear’. I pointed out that as you cannot try it on you need to go via their sizing, and when something says Large: 36-39 inch waist and doesn’t fit a 36 inch waist (not to mention that I normally wear their large with no problems) they are at fault. 

  13. Really? So if you buy a discounted shirt because it’s missing a button but thewn you get home and you discover a tear (nothing to do with the button) it’s tough? That doesn’t sound qute right…?

  14. The we only give credit notes is false, It doesn’t matter how quickly or slowly you bring something back, if it is company policy to only give credit notes and the item isn’t faulty, then the company is under no obligation to give a full refund. 

  15.  No. In a contract where a business sells to a consumer, there is no such thing as “sold as seen”. Where a particular fault is brought to a customer’s attention, the customer is proscribed from returning the item for THAT FAULT. However, if the item has another fault the consumer is perfectly within his or her rights to return the item for that fault. Shops will try to tell you that you can’t, but they are wrong.

    The Sale of Goods Act still applies.

  16. Nick Moore says:

    sefton22 – Read Martin’s original blog:
    And you will see that so long as the fault is a DIFFERENT one from the one you agreed to purchase with you deserve a refund.
    Caroline Byron’s got the right idea.

  17. Nick Moore says:

    You can’t have a refund for not shopping around!
    “Oh, I’m sorry Waitrose, it would appear you’ve ripped me off. I should have looked in Asda. Refund please!”

    I realise this post sounds rude, and I’m sure the Oyster Card folk are as honest as those charity idiots in bibs on the highstreet.

    In this instance the best we can do is circulate the weekly MSE email and stop people falling for the crafty rip-off merchants!!

  18. Anonymous says:

    ordered some straighteners from a catalogue, when they arrived they were tiny, tried to return them, was told I couldn’t due to health and hygiene reasons. So opened them up and tried to use them, they are rubbish! Can I do anything? I don’t believe that it was clearly indicated on the product page that they were non-returnable.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Intruder, I’ve just won a 3 month battle with John Lewis on this issue.  A washing machine broke down 2 weeks short of 3 years.  They tried to fob me off time and again with nonsense about their warranty period, return to the manufacturer, yadda yadda, but I kept the argument on the SAD FART points outlined above and eventually they refunded me £150, which was the difference between the price of their broken washing machine (£200), and the one I bought to replace it (£350).  I call that a result.  The lesson is to dig in, be polite, and know the Sale of Goods Act.  A reasonable length of time for a washing machine is about 6 years.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Hi, bought 2 Nokia N8′s from Tesco mobile shop in-store.  Long story short, one didn’t pick up signal like the other and after long running battle of mis-selling due to problems with unlocking, tried to return brand new phone for replacement and was told had to go off for repair.  Spoke to manager at the call centre and he was adamant that no-one in Tesco shop would agree to the exchange.  Rang the shop, spoke to the mobile phone shop manager and he immediately without quibble agreed to a new one which they paid for to be unlocked.  He recognised that there had been some seriously poor customer service and that the goods didn’t meet with the Sale of Goods Act from new.  Customer services just tried to palm me off with sending off for repair/testing for a week!  Stuff that! I DO know my rights :(

  21. I’ve managed to get a full refund from Sports Direct for a pair of trainers that lasted less than three weeks. Just need to state exactly what you want and remain calm. Mentioning statutory rights helps – scares them just enough not to quibble. :)

  22. i believe with catalogues there is a 7 day cooling off period and you can cancel the order within 7 days from you receiving them, as long as they are unopened and in original packaging not sure where you stand now you have used them

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