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Frequently asked questions about the Consumer Guarantees Act 2002

Q: I have bought something from a shop/door to door salesman which does not work. What can I do?

A: The law says that If goods are sold they must be of satisfactory quality and not be faculty.   Unless the fault was brought to your attention at the time you bought the goods, you are entitled to your money back, or if you prefer, to an exchange or replacement of the same value, providing you take the goods back straight away.

Q: I have bought something which does not do what it says on the packet or is not suitable for what I bought if for.   What can I do?

A: If the goods are not as described, not fit for their normal purpose or not fit for any particular purpose which you specified to the seller, you may be entitled to your money back.

Q: The seller agrees that goods I have bought are faulty but says I must get the manufacturer to refund me or agree to an exchange. Is this right?

A: No.   Your legal rights are with the seller of the goods who must refund what you paid for them or offer an exchange.

Q: Are there any times when I will not be entitled to my money back or to exchange the goods?

A: Yes they are as follows:

  • If you have held onto the goods for too long before returning them, you may be taken to have accepted them; or
  • If you were told about the fault before you bought the goods; or
  • If you did the damage yourself either by ignoring advice about using the goods or through lack of care; or
  • If there is nothing wrong with the goods and you have just changed your mind and decided you do not like them.   (Some shops may agree to accept the return of the goods as a gesture of goodwill).

Q: If I signed an “acceptance note” when I received the goods this mean I lose my rights if something goes wrong?

A: No. You are entitled to a reasonable time to check the goods for faults and as long as you return them as soon as you can you should be entitled to the return of your money or an exchange.

Q: If the goods were bought for me by someone else am I entitled to return them?

A: No. The goods should be returned by the person who bought them as there is a legal contract between that person and the seller.

Q: If I return goods do I have to accept a “credit note”?

A: No. You can insist on the full repayment of your money providing the goods are faulty or not as described.   If you accept a credit note you may not be able to exchange it for cash later if you cannot find anything else in the shop that you like. However, if you have merely changed your mind about an item, the seller might offer you a credit note as a goodwill gesture in which case you may wish to accept it.   However, some credit notes last for a limited period so check this before you accept it.

Q: Do I have to accept replacement goods or a free repair instead of cash?

A: No. You are entitled to the return of your money if the goods are faulty, not as described, or not fit for their purpose and returning them within a reasonable length of time.   The law is exactly the same for goods purchased in a sale.

Q: Do I need to have a receipt before I can get a refund?

A: No. You are still entitled to a refund as long you can prove you bought the goods from that particular seller.

Q: What if the goods are too heavy to carry back to the shop?   Am I responsible for the cost of taking the goods back?

A: No. You can ask the seller to some and collect the goods as long as you have not held onto them for too long, and as long-as you bought the goods yourself.

Q: If I cancel an order am I entitled to a return of any deposit paid by me?

A: Probably not.   Most deposits are not returnable.   If you cancel an order, the seller is usually entitled to keep your deposit as compensation for your breach of the agreement.

Q: Does a warranty or guarantee give me any special rights?

A: Yes. But read the guarantee or warranty carefully to check what it covers.   If a guarantee comes with a registration card you may have to fill this out and send it off before the guarantee covers you.   The guarantee should tell you how to make a claim.  Guarantees do not affect your normal rights for a refund or repair.

Q: What about services?   What can I do if I haven’t received the service I paid for?

A: You are entitled to certain standards of service.   The service should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time, and for a reasonable price providing the cost was not agreed beforehand.   The person or organization may be a member or a trade association or other professional body, be regulated by an official watchdog, or by an Ombudsman.   You may complain to them or sue the trader for compensation.

Q: If I have a genuine complaint and it does not get taken seriously, can I sue?

A: Yes. If the goods or services provided do not meet proper standards or requirements you can sue for breach of contract and claim for the return of the price you have paid or compensation for any other losses you have suffered as a result.   Also if you have been injured because the goods were defective you can claim compensation for your injuries.

Q: I saw goods marked at a price in a shop but when I took them to the till to pay the shop refused to sell them to me.   Can they do this?

A: Yes. A shop is not bound to serve you with anything, or at any price on display.   They are making an invitation to treat, and the invitation can be withdrawn at any time.   However, price indications should not be misleading.   If they are, it could be an offence under Criminal legislation and should be reported to your local trading Standards Office.

Q: I bought goods in a shop, but later discovered that if I had bought them from another shop just up the road, I could have bought them for less that I originally paid.   Can I take them back for a refund so that I can buy them at the lower price?

A: No.   Goods have be faulty or not fit for their purpose to qualify for a refund.   If you agreed to buy goods at an indicated price, you’ll be stuck with them even if you later discovered you could have bought them cheaper elsewhere.

Q: What is the role of the Public Counsel under the Consumer Guarantees Act?

A: Public Counsel can, if he or she chooses, mediate the dispute between the consumer and the supplier that results in a breach of one of the guarantees under the Act. In addition, it the Public Counsel or the consumer is unsuccessful in resolving the dispute, the Public Counsel may represent the consumer before the Consumer Claims Tribunal.

Q: What is the Consumer Claims Tribunal and what claims are heard before it?

A: The Consumer Claims Tribunal is a type of Small Claims Court whose function is to enforce the rights of consumers and, in some instances, suppliers under the Consumer Guarantees Act. The Tribunal hears and determines the outcome of complaints related to alleged breaches of the guarantees relating to goods and services where the value of the good or service does not exceed the amount of $ 10,000.00

Q: How does the Tribunal differ from a Court?

A: The rules of evidence are not strictly enforced by the Tribunal so that the evidence that could not normally be given in a court would be received before the Tribunal. The Tribunal is empowered to accept opinion evidence and other facts that it considers relevant in determining the outcome of any matter being heard. There are little or no costs associated with bringing an action against a supplier even if the consumer who files the action loses the case.

Q: Can I get my money back if the item I purchased is defective?

A: Not in every case. If the defect can be remedied, you should allow the supplier the opportunity to repair the defect within a reasonable time. If the supplier fails to or refuses to repair the defect in a reasonable time, as the consumer, you can reject the item or cancel the service contract and demand a refund of the monies you paid. Where the defect is considered to “be of substantial character” (e.g. goods do not match the given description, are unfit for the intended purpose, are used or are unsafe) then you can reject the item and claim a full refund.

Q: Do I lose my rights under the Act where the defect in the item manifests itself after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired?

A: No. Warranties are a matter of contract between the consumer and the supplier. The statutory guarantees enshrined in the Act impose a minimum standard that goods must meet even though the warranty period has passed.

Q: What are my rights if I have a number of problems with an item that was purchased?

A: If there is an accumulation of small defects such that the combined effect is sufficiently substantial, then the consumer may have the right to reject the item, request a replacement or request a full refund of the purchase price.

Q: What rights do I have if I am given an item as a gift and it is defective?

A: You have the same rights as the person who bought the item for you. This is different from what normally obtains. Usually, only those person who purchased the item can file a complaint in relation to that item.

Q: If I have a problem with an item bought from my neighbour, will the Consumer Guarantees Act provide me with a remedy?

A: If your neighbour does not sell those items as part of a business enterprise then you will not have any redress under the Act. The Act does not cover one time sales between two individuals as seller must be “in trade” for the Act to apply.

Q: Can I bring a witness to say what a sales representative told me at the time of purchase about an item or services that I bought?

A: Yes and it is recommended that you take someone with you when making a major purchase. The Act permits witnesses to give evidence about statements made regarding goods sold by the supplier or the supplier’s agent at the time of sale.

Q: Am I without remedy if I don’t have my receipt?

A: No, not necessarily. Even though you should have your receipt to prove that you made the purchase, cancelled cheques, credit card statements or debit card receipts can provide enough evidence to show that a purchase has occurred with the supplier.

Q: Does the Consumer Guarantees Act apply to goods bought at auction sales or by competitive tender?

A: No. These transactions are not covered under the Act.

Q: What about Charitable Organizations, are they liable under the Act?

A: Where goods are supplied or a service is provided by a charitable organization for the principal purpose of benefitting the person receiving the supply, then the charitable organization would not be liable if the goods or the service fails to comply with the guarantees under the Act.

Q: What is consequential loss and how can I claim it?

A: Consequential loss is the loss (normally one that costs you money) that you suffer because of something going wrong with the goods that you bought or the service that you received. You can seek compensation for personal injury, distress, inconvenience, disappointment or vexation suffered as a direct result of the failure of the goods or the service. However the loss must have been expected to result from the failure of the good or service.

Q: If I am not happy with the Tribunal’s decision, what can I do?

A: You can appeal to the Court of Appeal against the decision made by the Tribunal but the appeal must be based on a question of law e.g. the Tribunal must have misinterpreted or misapplied some aspect of the Act in your case.