Christmas shoppers should be on their guard against High Street retailers trying to deny them their basic statutory rights.
Retailers regularly deliberately try to mislead buyers about their rights, relying on consumers' ignorance of the law.
The following are some key examples of malpractice on the High Street:
Retailers routinely refuse to repair or refund goods after the one-year shop guarantee has expired, often claiming that the manufacturer is liable. This is not true. Retailers are legally liable for the durability of the products they sell and must replace or repair products if they do not work for a reasonable time.
Many retailers insist on seeing a receipt before refunding or exchanging goods. They do not have the right to do this. Any reasonable proof of purchase should be enough, such as a credit card statement.
Signs saying "No Return On Sale Goods" are commonplace, but also illegal.
Buyers cannot reject goods if they have been made to order. Retailers of spamspamspam or computers, for example, often claim that goods made to customers' specifications cannot be rejected by the consumer. But goods must still be satisfactory and fit for the customer's specified purpose, and the Office of Fair Trading has said that it does not consider goods assembled from standard components, as being built to customer specification.
Many internet and mail order companies charge consumers 'restocking fees' for the return of non-faulty goods, yet this practice is illegal. Consumers are entitled to return goods, purchased online or via mail order, under the Distance Selling Regulations (up to 7 working days after receipt of goods) and sellers are not allowed to charge for doing so.
Consumers often feel that when presented with an invoice, they must pay for work if it has been carried out with "reasonable care and skill", but this is not always the case. The buyer should pay a 'reasonable price', but if the price is not agreed in advance, which is common for many services, the buyer may refuse to pay a price he feels is too high, if he can prove (by obtaining alternative quotations, for example) that he is being charged too much.
Consumers should be prepared to seek compensation in small claims courts if necessary.
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