Faulty Products: Who Is Responsible?

You’ve saved a few quid here and there and finally scraped together enough to buy that thing you’ve been eyening. Whatever that thing might be, it didn’t come free and you worked hard for the funds that paid for it. You run out to the shops, pick it up and bring it home. You’re excited about your purchase and can’t wait to put it to good use.

After a use or two you realize with great disappointment that your product is faulty. Are you stuck with it? Has your money been wasted? Who is responsible for a faulty product?

When you make a purchase, you enter into a type of contract. In the eyes of the law, you have certain rights within this contractual agreement. The Sale of Goods Act of 1979 ensures these rights. You can expect the item you buy:

  • to be of reasonable satisfactory quality
  • that any claims on the packaging are accurate and truthful
  • that the goods within are the same as what is pictured or described on the packaging
  • that the item is fit for its intended purpose.


If the product you’ve purchased isn’t fit under the standards laid out in the Sale of Goods Act, you are entitled to a remedy. That could be a refund of the purchase price paid, an exchange for a suitable replacement, a repair or a reduction of the price. You may also be entitled to damages if the fault in a product caused verifiable harm or damage to a person or property. (For instance, a faulty dishwasher leaks and ruins your floors.)

Not every situation is covered under this Act however. You might not be entitled to a refund, replacement or damages if you have used the product in a manner “inconsistent with the trader’s ownership”. You cannot return a dress you have had altered. You cannot claim damages if you were using your china over an open flame and so on. If you were made aware of a defect or damage prior to purchase, you might not have a claim.

There are also limitations on the length of time you take to report faulty products and seek a refund or repair. The Act doesn’t give a specific time frame on this; it only states that it must be a “reasonable” length of time. A court would ultimately decide reasonability but it’s always best to act quickly rather than to wait.

In most cases, the burden lies with the consumer to prove that this contract has been breached. You may need legal assistance in building your case effectively. Choose a skilful, professional to guide you through the process.