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frequently asked questions

  • What is Trading Standards?
  • Trading Standards is the name given to the enforcement in the UK of a wide range of consumer related legislation, covering areas such as product safety, fair trading, metrology, and environmental controls. The trading standards service is provided by over 200 local government authorities in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland (central government), and the Channel Islands, often as part of a larger department. It is concerned principally with ensuring honesty and fairness in business activity, but exists to help business as well as consumers, by giving advice on legislation and ensuring a level playing field for competition.

  • What do Trading Standards Officers do?
  • Trading Standards Officers enforce a wide range of consumer related legislation, for example the Weights and Measures Act 1985, the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 and the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
    The job involves visiting premises to ensure that legislation is complied with, giving advice to traders and consumers, and investigating complaints of breaches of legislation.
    Investigations range from the simple in the case of a retailer not pricing items correctly, to complex in the case of a motor dealer 'clocking' motor vehicles.
    Offenders are prosecuted, or in Scotland reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
    Authorities also employ enforcement officers who carry out a similar job to TSOs but usually in one specialised area. They do not normally discharge any Weights and Measures duties.
    More information about training can be seen on this site at TS Careers

  • What rights do I have when I buy faulty goods in a shop?
  • When you buy goods from any trader you have the right to expect certain standards - the goods must be:
    1. Of satisfactory quality, covering for example the appearance and finish of goods, their safety and durability and their freedom from defects (even minor ones) - except where they have been pointed out to you before purchase.
    2. Fit for their purpose, including any purpose tell the vendor that you require them for.
    3. As described
  • If the goods do not meet these standards you are entitled to reject them, and get your money back. You do not have to accept a credit note or replacement (although you may want to consider this if you've had the goods for some time). You have a reasonable time to return faulty goods - after which you are deemed to have accepted the goods and their faults, although you may still be able to claim damages.

  • What about services rather than goods?
  • You are entitled to certain standards of service. The service should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time, and for a reasonable price providing the cost was not agreed beforehand. The person or organisation may be a member of a trade association or other professional body, be regulated by an official watchdog or by an Ombudsman, and they may have a Code of Practice. You will be able to complain to them or sue the trader for compensation.

  • Must I produce a receipt to get a refund?
  • The short answer is no, what you do need is proof of purchase. This could be a cashed cheque or credit card counterfoil or even a witness who saw you make the purchase (in Scotland you will need a witness). However having a receipt will make your task very much easier and it is obviously the best proof of purchase you can get so look after it until you are sure that the goods are OK.

  • If I cancel an order can I get any deposit back that I paid?
  • Probably not. Most deposits are not returnable. If you cancel an order, the seller could be entitled to keep your deposit as compensation for your breach of the agreement, however it would have to be a reasonable amount depending on the circumstances.

  • What if the supplier cancels an order for some reason, can I get any deposit back that I paid?
  • Probably yes although you may have to take a small claims action if he refuses. If the supplier cancels an order he will be in breach of contract and should return any monies you have paid. There may be terms in your contract which allow him to keep some or all of your deposit in such circumstances, however these terms will probably be unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 - contact your local Trading Standards Department for more details.

  • I saw goods marked at low price in a shop but the shop refused to sell them to me. Can they do this?
  • Yes. A shop is not bound to sell you anything, or at any price on display. They are making an invitation to treat, and the invitation can be withdrawn at any time before acceptance. However, price indications should not be misleading. If they are, it could be an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and should be reported to your local Trading Standards Office

  • What if the shop tells me to get lost?
  • If the shop ultimately refuses to refund your money and you feel you have a good case you must take action yourself - consider taking them to court, you can use the small claims procedure depending on the value of the goods [or services] is less than 750ukp [in Scotland] or 5000ukp [in England] - reduced to 1000ukp for claims involving personal injury. Court fees vary and you should check your local court service for details, or try courtservice.gov.uk or scotcourts.gov.uk.
    You would be best to get advice first, as in certain circumstances you may be liable for costs - your local trading standards office will provide advice free of charge, and may even help you fill in forms.
  • What if the price is on a website and I order it and give my card details?
  • It's just the same as above - if the retailer has not gone as far as accepting your offer - which might be debiting your credit or debit card then they will be able to decline your offer to buy the goods at that price - of course they should take steps to amend the website details as soon as possible after they find out about the error. This is a more complex issue however than for a shop purchase, and acceptance of your offer may depend on a number of factors including the sellers terms and conditions, and will likely vary from case to case.

  • What if a shop repairs goods but they are still faulty?
  • You have the same rights as before you agreed to the repair - let the shop know you are reserving the right to reject the goods when you agree to the repair attempt. You should give the vendor a reasonable opportunity to repair goods - especially if the fault is minor and the goods can be put into new condition.

  • My mum bought me a new computer for Christmas and it's faulty, the shop say I have no contract with them and no rights...what's the position?
  • Strictly speaking the contract for the sale of the goods is between the seller and your mum - she will have to take the computer back. Generally a lot of stores would deal with you if you have proof of purchase, out of goodwill.

  • Are there any times when I will not be entitled to my money back or to exchange the goods ?
  • Yes!:
    (i) If you have held onto the goods for too long before returning them, you may be taken to have 'accepted' them.
    (ii) Or if you were told about the fault before you bought the goods.
    (iii) Or if you did the damage yourself either by ignoring advice about using the goods or through lack of care.
    (iv) Or if there is nothing wrong with the goods and you have just changed your mind and decided you do not like them. (Some shops may agree to accept the return of the goods as a gesture of goodwill).

  • I saw goods marked at a price in a shop but when I took them to the till to pay the shop refused to sell them to me. Can they do this ?
  • Yes. A shop is not bound to serve you with anything, or at any price on display. They are making an invitation to treat, and the invitation can be withdrawn at any time - it is the buyer who makes the offer to buy.
    However, price indications should not be misleading. If they are, it could be an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and should be reported to your local Trading Standards office.

  • What if I buy goods in a sale?
  • If you buy goods in a sale your statutory rights still apply, however if the shop draws specific defects to your attention then you have no rights in relation to those defects.

  • I bought a new dress for a wedding but I've lost weight and it doesn't fit, can I get a refund, I haven't worn it?
  • No! You are not entitled to a refund if there is no fault with your purchase.

  • Can I take secondhand goods back if they are faulty?
  • Yes! When you buy secondhand goods you have the same rights as when you buy new, however you must remember that you cannot expect the same quality or durability from secondhand goods, and this must be taken into account.

  • If I return goods do I have to a accept a "credit note" ?
  • No. You can insist on the full repayment of your money providing the goods are faulty or not as described. If you accept a credit note you may not be able to exchange it for cash later if you cannot find anything else in the shop that you like. However, if you have merely changed your mind about an item, the seller might offer you a credit note as a goodwill gesture in which case you may wish to accept it. However, some credit notes last for a limited period so check this before you accept it.

  • What rights do I have if I buy goods privately, from an individual?
  • Not many! The Sale of Goods legislation does not wholly apply, although goods will still have to meet any description given by the seller or you can take action for breach of contract. You should watch out for traders who pretend to be private sellers in order to avoid statutory liabilities - if you suspect a private seller is really a trader contact your local trading standards office, they will be able to take action under Fair Trading Act powers.

  • I bought goods which are faulty but the shop won't refund and pointed out a 'no refunds' notice.
  • Notices like that are illegal and it's not possible for traders to exclude liability for faulty goods - even if you agree. Contact your local trading standards office and they will get the notice taken down.

  • If I signed an "acceptance note" when I received the goods does this mean I lose my rights if something goes wrong ?
  • No. You are entitled to a reasonable time to check the goods for faults and as long as you return them as soon as you can you should be entitled to the return of your money or an exchange.

  • Does a warranty or guarantee give me any special rights?
  • Yes...but read the guarantee or warranty carefully to check what it covers. If a guarantee comes with a registration card you may have to fill this out and send it off before the guarantee covers you. The guarantee should tell you how to make a claim. Guarantees do not affect your normal statutory rights.

  • I bought a TV a month ago and it blew up - the shop say they'll send it to the manufacturer under his warranty, is that OK?
  • No! Manufacturer's 'guarantees' are in addition to the rights conferred on the customer by law. 'Statutory' rights are against the seller NOT the manufacturer and any guarantee cannot take away your statutory rights.

  • What if the goods are too heavy to carry back to the shop? Am I responsible for the cost of taking the goods back?
  • No. You can ask the seller to come and collect the goods as long as you have not held onto them for too long, and as long-as you bought the goods yourself.

  • I bought a computer monitor at a fair and the seller said it had a 30 day warranty...I thought I should get a year warranty with all electrical goods?
  • There is no automatic entitlement to a warranty although most reputable manufacturers will offer at least a year on their products, however as mentioned above this 'warranty' is in addition to and does not affect your statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act

  • Is it worth buying goods with a credit card?
  • Yes....if the goods cost more than £100 but less than £30,000 then the credit card company is equally liable for any claim you have against the seller. This can be particularly useful if the trader has gone out of business.

  • If I have bought something on credit can I cancel it?
  • You can usually only cancel a credit agreement if it was made with the supplier in person (not over the 'phone), and if the agreement was signed 'off trade premises', for example if it were signed at your home. The agreement will tell you whether you have a right to cancel and how much time you have in which to do it.

  • Do I have any rights if my holiday is cancelled or if I do not get what I paid for ?
  • You have certain rights when booking a holiday. If you booked a package holiday through a tour operator they have to be "bonded". This means if the tour operator goes bust before you travel you should get your money back. If you are abroad they should pay to get you home at no extra cost. In certain circumstances you may have to pay money in advance and claim it back on your return.

    Remember if you paid for your holiday by credit card, and it cost more than 100 you may be able to get your money back from the credit card company if the tour operator goes out of business. If your holiday has not gone well then check what the holiday brochure says. The brochure descriptions, terms and conditions at the back form the contract. If the holiday did not meet the description or was of a poor standard you may be able to claim compensation for breach of contract. You should write to the tour operator setting out your claim as soon as you get home.

  • I recently put 10 of petrol in my car but I don't think I got it all, what do I do?
  • In the first instance take a note of the pump number and call your local Trading Standards Office, they will send an inspector to check the pump. However modern pumps are very accurate and problems are relatively few, in fact meters have changed very little over the past 20 years or so because of their robust design. Typically petrol pumps will be accurate to at least 0.3-0.5 percent

  • I run a shop that repairs consumer goods.
    What procedure must I follow to dispose of uncollected goods - when can we throw then out?

  • In England and Wales the situation is covered by the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. Repairers may detain goods until charges are met, and sell the goods if the customer does not return (a period of not less than 3 months springs to mind).
    It is advisable to retain the right to do this by stating it on the contract, or on a prominent notice. You should also take reasonable steps to trace the owner before selling. Or send him a notice specifying that the goods are ready for delivery (the form of which is specified in the Act)
    In Scotland the situation is similar but is dealt with by common law

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