Help! Get these hazards out of my home

Nia Williams

April 26, 2011

Sometimes it’s easier to struggle on with the offending item – or put it away in a cupboard rather than take action, since consumer rights can be a minefield.

Last year, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, found just under 50% of people have at least one faulty item at home, with almost a third possessing up to five items. Failure to take items back for refund, replacement or exchange was estimated at £4,950 per person during their lifetime.

The key piece of law is the Sale of Goods Act, which says items must be ‘as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality’. So, if something is faulty or wrongly described, you have the right to a refund, replacement or repair.

The time is nigh for a rate rise

The retailer, rather than the manufacturer, should be your first contact, particularly if you want a refund. You are likely to be asked for proof of purchase, but this could be from a bank or credit card statement.

The law says you should reject an item ‘within a reasonable time’ – typically considered to be within a month. Another point to remember is that an item does not have to be broken – some retailers provide a no-quibble refund or exchange policy even if you’ve just changed your mind – but they may give you a credit note.

But, for faulty, incorrectly described, or not fit for purpose goods, you are entitled to your money back and do not have to take a credit note. Online shoppers receive the same rights as those shopping on the high street. In addition, you have the right to a seven-day ‘cooling off’ period from the date you receive the goods. One other point to bear in mind is that if you buy from a private individual, then you have few legal rights.

If the supplier has gone out of business and is a limited company, you need to contact the administrator. If the item has a guarantee you can go to the manufacturer, and if you bought by credit card, then you may have protection.

The Citizens Advice Bureau as well as the Government’s Consumer Direct website provide plenty of guidance.

If an item is damaged, say in a fire or flood, you may well be able to make a claim on your contents insurance. Remember, there will be an excess to pay, so if it is of low value, then making a claim may not be worth it. Also, if your policy incorporates a no-claims discount, you would lose this – so it’s worth bearing in mind the bigger picture.

When taking out cover, it makes sense to compare home insurance quotes, to see how features and benefits compare, such as the size of the excess and the cost of accidental damage cover.

This cover is normally an add-on to a standard home contents insurance policy – an addition which covers you if there is, for example, an accidental spillage. Discounts can sometimes be obtained if you buy online home insurance or if you buy buildings and contents insurance from the same provider.

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