If you’re a trader who sells to consumers, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SOGA) you must ensure the goods you sell are: as described; fit for the purpose you sold them; and of satisfactory quality.
If you provide services to a consumer, under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (SGSA), traders must carry out a job with reasonable care and skill (up to the standard of an 'average practitioner in that field'); in a reasonable time (if no time limit is agreed); for a reasonable fee (if no fixed price was agreed). Any goods or parts fitted as part of the contract must comply with SOGA:
Being dragged to court or having to take your own claim to court for non-payment is costly in terms of time, money, bad publicity and lost customers and should be avoided if at all possible.
If a customer complains you should listen to their points and, if you feel you are clearly in the wrong (i.e. the product breached the SOGA or the service breached the SGSA), try to resolve the matter there and then, offering a refund if they have complained within a reasonable time or offering to fix it or replace it if repair isn’t possible. If the complaint is about services you have provided, offer a repair or appropriate compensation.
If you don’t feel the customer has a case, don’t get into an argument, make notes of all details of the purchase, the complaint and any evidence they have to back up their claims. Even if you don’t think they have a solid case against you, it might sometimes be worth offering them a sop – perhaps a small discount – just to save you any future hassle.
If you think the customer is really trying it on, assure them that you will look into the matter and get back to them as soon as possible. Then try to amass any paperwork and other evidence that you can. If they complain within six months of the purchase, it’s up to you to prove that the product wasn’t faulty when they bought it; if they complain after six months, it’s up to them to prove that it was faulty when they bought it.
If you sell something worth more than £35 to someone at their home or workplace when you were not invited, consumers have the right to cancel the contract completely within seven days. Individual consumers buying online, by mail order or by phone, enjoy the same right and are entitled to a full refund and any delivery costs.
When selling online, by mail order or by phone, you must also provide a range of information about your business including its name and full contact details and the total price. Total prices payable (including taxes and delivery costs) must be made clear and you must confirm an order in writing and give details of how to cancel it. Good must be delivered within 30 days unless otherwise agreed, you are not allowed to supply unsolicited goods or services and then ask for payment, and you can’t send them junk mail if they ask you not to.
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