When you purchase goods, you are entitled to obtain goods that are:
- free from defects;
- fit for the purpose for which they were purchased;
- of a basic quality, bearing in mind the price you have paid and any description of the goods given to you by the seller;
- safe and free from hazard.
When goods aren't good enough
If the goods you have purchased fail any of the tests set out above then you have the right to complain to the seller. Be clear about what you want the seller to do about the situation - do you want a refund; replacement goods; a price reduction or some other remedy? If you cannot resolve the problem with the retailer at this stage, then you should seek advice from the Office of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading or a lawyer.
You are entitled to a refund if the goods purchased by you are faulty or damaged, unfit for the purpose for which you purchased them, do not match the description given to you, or do not match the sample you were shown. You are not entitled to a refund if you have changed your mind about buying the goods, you have found the item cheaper elsewhere, you discover that you cannot afford them, you knew the goods had a fault and purchased them anyway, or you have damaged the goods yourself.
All goods are covered by what are termed statutory warranties. These protect you if the goods purchased:
- are not reasonably fit for the purpose you bought them;
- do not match a description given to you;
- are not of a reasonable quality bearing in mind price and description.
In addition, some retailers and manufacturers offer what is called a voluntary warranty. This is where they agree to fix problems or replace goods within a certain time limit. For example many cars now come with a 3-year/100,000 kilometre warranty. If a seller refuses to comply with a statutory or voluntary warranty then it would be best to obtain advice from the Office of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading or a lawyer.
This is a very popular method of buying goods. A store is not obliged to have a lay-by system, but if they do then the following rules should be followed:
- the goods you are buying should be set aside at the store;
- the seller should give you a copy of the terms of the lay-by agreement including the following information: the amount of the deposit; the period over which instalments are to be made; the date by which all payments have to be made; penalties which can be applied if you fail to make payments or want to cancel the agreement; and the person responsible for insuring the goods.
The seller cannot change the price of the goods during the lay-by period. If you fail to abide by the terms of the lay-by agreement then the seller can terminate the agreement, return the goods to the shelves and retain a portion of the money paid by you to cover expenses associated with the lay-by. You do not own the goods until the purchase price of the goods has been paid in full.
Door to door sales
Special laws apply to people who try to sell goods door to door. The most important is that there is a 10-day "cooling off" period from when you agree to purchase any goods during which time you can change your mind. The seller cannot accept payment from you or deliver the goods to you until this 10-day period is over.