Your Legal Rights
Choosing to upgrade the windows in your home is big investment and can be scary if you aren’t aware of the systems which are in place to protect you as the consumer. There are several laws in the UK which specifically protect consumers in the event of faulty products, unfair contracts or poorly delivered service. Let’s examine a few of them.
The Sale of Goods Act of 1979 states that any items sold to a consumer must match the description given and be of satisfactory quality. This includes all sales of goods, whether in store, in home, by mail, telephone or Internet. This is not a warranty but a condition, and grants the buyer four specific rights and options for recourse:
- Right to return the faulty item
- Right to a full refund
- Right to compensation in the event of damages incurred by the defective product (such as a washing machine which, properly installed, immediately leaked, flooding and ruining the kitchen floor)
- Right to terminate the contract
Despite UK laws which expressly state that consumers are entitled to these rights, there still remain many shopkeepers who post multiple signs in direct defiance of these laws, stating no-refund policies, or that items can be returned only for store credit.
However, regardless of how many of these signs are posted, this type of policy is null and void. The decision with regard to returning an item and receiving a refund, replacement or store credit is up to the consumer, not the shopkeeper.
Some shopkeepers may be unaware of this, but the Unfair Contract Terms Act of 1977 clearly states that a consumer’s right to return a faulty product cannot be taken away by any sales contract.
What’s more, the Consumer Transactions (Restrictions on Statements) Order of 1976 declares that the use of a void clause in a sales agreement between a consumer and a business is a criminal offence. The “no refunds” policy simply won’t hold up against the law.
If the item has caused damage, such as in the example of the washing machine flooding scenario mentioned above, you must do what you can to keep the damage to a minimum, as the amount for which the seller will be liable will be open to debate.
If there is more damage than what is considered unavoidable given the circumstances (i.e., you could have taken action to prevent further damage), you might have to cover some of the repair costs yourself.
The Sale of Goods Act of 1979 is not limited to merely faulty goods. This act also states that the item must be “satisfactory quality and fit for its purpose”. Therefore, it must not only be deemed acceptable quality, but also fitting for the purpose desired by the consumer.
For example, if you wanted a DVD recorder and you clearly stated this, and were sold a DVD player which does not record, you would be within your rights to return the DVD player, because its capability does not include the purpose you were seeking.
It is important to note, however, that there are instances in which you may lose your right to a refund. If you receive a defective product, and want a refund, it is your responsibility to make the seller aware of the situation (your dissatisfaction due to faulty product) within what the law deems a reasonable amount of time. What is deemed a reasonable amount of time varies according to the circumstances.
The other instance in which you can lose your right to a refund is if you have altered the product. Opening the box or packaging generally is not an alteration of the product.
Additionally, there are laws in place to protect in the buyer in other purchasing situations, such as online, doorstep and credit sales. Let’s take a look at those.
Online Purchase Protection
With Internet sales being a huge growth area for business in general, and also in the double glazing industry, there is a possibility that you might purchase double glazing through an online promotion.
For Internet, phone and direct mail purchases, consumer protection is provided by the UK’s Distance Selling Regulations. Under this section, you generally have what is called a “cooling off” period of seven days from the time of purchase to change your mind and cancel the sale.
Your cancellation notice must be in writing and sent by email, fax or post to the seller within seven days of receipt of the product. The seller is required to provide you written notice of your right to cancel, at the latest, upon delivery of product or service. If they haven’t, then this seven day period won’t start until they do so, and can potentially be extended to three months.
If you’ve purchased a service rather than a product, and that service starts within the seven days, you forfeit this right to cancel. However, the service provider must expressly communicate this to you, and you must agree before they commence work.
Cancellation Rights with Doorstep Selling
Doorstep selling is the most traditional means of selling double glazing, in the form of the door to door salesman visiting you at your home. Protection for this type of sale is covered under the law on Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regulations of 2008.
In this scenario, you have the right to cancel within a seven day cooling off period. Again, the seller is required to provide you notification that you may cancel within seven days. Failure to do so may render the contract unenforceable.
This section of the law offers protection in the event that you later find a better price. For example, if you order the glazing from the salesman in your home for £6500, only to find an advert days later for the same package for just £4800, you have the right to cancel your order.
The same provision of a seven day cooling off period covers sales made away from the seller’s shop or headquarters. This includes trade fairs and marketing presentations, even if the contract is entered into away from the premises and concluded at later date at the seller’s place of business.
Credit Agreement Cancellation Rights
With regard to credit agreements, there are different cooling off periods depending on where the contract was entered. If the sale was made away from the seller’s normal place of business (i.e. your home, a trade show, etc.), the cooling off period will be just five days.
However, sales covered under the Distance Selling Regulations (Internet, phone and direct mail) are given a fourteen day cooling off period.
The creditor is required to notify you of your right to cancel and how you may do so. The cooling off period starts with your receipt of this notification. If the creditor does not provide this notification, then the cooling off period does not begin until they do so.
We hope this overview of your rights as a consumer has been useful – but please remember it is for information purposes only – we are unable to give you legal advice, and if you require such advice you should consult a qualified solicitor.