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Consumers denied legal rights by high street stores

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According to a study by consumer champions Which? this week, high street stores are dismissing customers who have legitimate complaints and denying them their legal statutory rights’ to have faulty goods fixed.

Its researchers apparently visited 60 shops, including Argos, Comet, Currys, John Lewis and some independent outlets, with a complaint about a faulty fridge that was just out of a one or two-year warranty.  In a number of stores visited, it was found that the wrong information was being given by their staff, with only 16 out of 60 stores accepting that the store had any responsibility outside of the warranty period.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 gives consumers limited protection for up to six years after purchase, regardless of store or manufacturer warranties. The Act says that when a product is bought, it must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and meet its description.  If the item then develops a fault at a time in its life when this should not reasonably have happened, the shop could be responsible for rectifying the problem, or replacing the product. They must then carry out this repair within a reasonable time.  In some circumstances, if a replacement or repair is not appropriate, you may also be entitled to a full refund.

The study showed many stores would refer the customer back to the manufacturer. However, whilst some manufacturers may help, the retailer is actually legally responsible to sort out any problem.

As a solicitor specialising in Consumer Law disputes, I find it shocking that consumers are being so misadvised as to their rights. These rights can be crucial and often worth a lot of money to some people. These complaints are not always limited to items such as fridges, but can include large items of furniture, or jewellery, which can sometimes cost thousands of pounds. 

Providing that you can show that you did not do anything to cause the fault, you should be able to exercise your statutory rights within the 6 years. For example, with a fridge, under general use, you would expect it to last longer than two to three years. If it stops working after this time, you should be able to complain to the store that sold it to you. All you are obliged to show is proof of purchase, such as your receipt, to show that you bought it from them.

If your item is worth more than £5,000 then we may be able to assist you. Our specialist team of Consumer solicitors deal with cases like this regularly, and with success. We have a variety of funding options available to assist you with your case, and we can advise you quickly over the phone as to the most appropriate funding for your case. You can call our team directly on 01616 966 229.

By consumer law solicitor, Heather Korwin-Szymanowska