The EU ‘goods must last a minimum two years’ rule is a myth

Your rights on faulty products cleared up

I keep reading people comment, saying a little-known EU law states there’s a minimum two years in which a faulty product can be returned and people asking why UK retailers don’t utilise it. Actually this is simply a misunderstanding as we’ve got STRONGER rights here…

I was prompted to blog this after reading a suggestion in the new 50 words Moneyfesto 2011 that this should be implemented in the UK. In the past I’ve even read newspaper articles that get it wrong, so I thought it about time to set something down to correct what’s becoming a common urban myth.

Actually the EU law talks about how long you’ve got to complain, not how long goods should actually last. And while it’s minimum 2 years, in the UK we actually get SIX years to do the same.  

What actually counts is what the legal definition of faulty is. The key is, at the time of purchase, goods must obey what I call the SAD FART rules, i.e. be of “Satisfactory quality, As Described, Fit for purpose And last a Reasonable Time” – if not, they are legally faulty (see full Consumer Rights guide for detailed explanation).

With faulty goods, there are then FOUR critical time limits.  

1. Four-ish weeks. Return them before this and you should get a full refund – this is basically the time before which you are not deemed to have ‘accepted’ the goods.

2. Six months.
Here it’s for the retailer to prove they weren’t faulty when bought, after that you must prove they were.  

3. Six years.
This is how long you’ve got to take a complaint to court.

The final time limit is the ‘must last a reasonable time bit’ and here the word ‘reasonable’ has a common sense definition. 

Most would say it’s not reasonable for a £1,000 plasma telly to break after six months, but it is for a 20p plastic torch. Of course the difficulty is if the retailer (your complaint is always with the retailer) disagrees, your only recourse is to court.