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

Update 22 Dec 2015: This blog was first written back in 2011- we’ve updated it to reflect the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which took effect in October, and everything else still stands.

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 14-day-no-quibble right of return (this used to be seven days).  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 Consumer Rights Act 2015 (this was previously 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 within 30 days (this used to be worded "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 within 30 days (previously "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.