Trading Standards Institute Advice

Sale and Supply of Goods - what to do if things go wrong

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales 

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you important rights when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services and digital content.

Having a clear understanding of your rights is the first step to becoming a confident consumer. Knowing how to put that knowledge into practice when things go wrong is the next step. 

This guide gives you an overview of the key rights you have when a trader supplies goods to you and a clear pathway to follow when you want to complain to the trader about those goods.

Sale & supply of goods - an overview of your rights

Before you approach a trader with a complaint about goods that have been supplied to you, know your rights and make sure you have a clear understanding of what you are entitled to and when you are entitled to it. The chart below gives you an at-a-glance view of your key rights and remedies when goods are not of satisfactory quality, not fit for a particular purpose, not as described and when they do not match a sample or model.

If you need it the 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' guide gives more in-depth information.

Sale and supply of goods flowchart

What to do if things go wrong

In most cases you will be satisfied with goods that have been supplied to you and will have no need to complain to the trader, but in the event of a problem follow the steps below:

  • stop using the goods as soon as you are aware there is a problem
  • find your proof of purchase, which will usually be your receipt (or gift receipt) or your copy of the contract but it can also include your bank / credit card statement. You will need proof of purchase in the event that the trader asks you for evidence that they actually supplied the goods to you or that you received the goods as a gift
  • for most contracts (but not all) the trader must give you certain important information about the goods, payment arrangements, delivery, their name and contact details, after-sales information and details of any complaints handling policy they may have. If you receive this information, keep it in a safe place
  • if the trader does not provide after-sales information or details of a complaints handling policy you need to find out who to complain to. Check the trader's website, the back of the receipt, the order form or the delivery note for details
  • have all relevant documents as well as notes on your complaint to hand as the trader will ask you for your name and address, customer / order number, the date the goods were supplied and nature of your complaint
  • if you complain in person, look for a dedicated customer service or refunds desk within the store. If the store does not have one, ask to speak to the manager or the person in charge. Make sure you ask for their name and contact details in case you need to speak to them again
  • if you complain by phone, ring the dedicated customer services helpline number if there is one. Alternatively ring the store or head office and ask to be transferred to someone who can help you. Make sure you ask for their name and contact details in case you need to speak to them again
  • when you complain in person or by phone, it is advisable to follow-up with an email or letter to confirm the details of your complaint, which remedy you are seeking and to give a deadline for the trader to respond.
  • you can complain in writing - by letter or email - if you choose. Find out who to contact beforehand to avoid your complaint being sent to the wrong person or office. You can attach copies of your paperwork to assist the trader to deal with your complaint. Obtain a certificate of posting for letters that you send or use recorded delivery so that you can track the date the letter was received. If you receive an automatic email acknowledgement of your complaint, keep it. The guide 'Writing an effective letter of complaint' includes template letters you can use
  • keep a record of events - when you complained and to whom and what they said they could do and by when
  • keep copies of letters and emails sent and received
  • give the trader a reasonable opportunity to deal with your complaint
  • you may need to provide evidence to the trader to back-up your complaint. This could be sending the trader copies of your paperwork (receipt, emails and letters) as well as anything you think will help demonstrate that the goods are faulty, such as photographs or videos. Remember that if you are seeking replacement goods or repair within the first six months from the date of supply, it is for the trader to prove that the goods were satisfactory when they were sold, not for you to prove they are faulty
  • If the trader does not accept any of the evidence you have presented in support of your complaint and you remain in dispute, you may need to obtain an expert's opinion. The 'Getting evidence to prove your claim' guide gives more information on this
  • the trader may respond with an offer of an alternative remedy, such as replacement instead of refund. You may wish to consider the offer but, if you are complaining within 30 days from the date the goods were supplied, you are entitled to your money back
  • if your complaint is rejected, the remedy offered is not acceptable or if you do not receive a reply at all, send another letter or email; there may be someone more senior within the store that you can direct your complaint to
  • if you paid for the goods using finance arranged by the trader or if you paid using your credit card and the goods cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, the finance / credit card provider is as responsible as the trader if they are faulty. Write to or email the finance / credit card provider with details of your complaint. The 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' guide gives more information
  • if you use a debit card to buy the goods or if you use a credit card and the price of the goods is less that £100 (your rights under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 would not apply) you may be able to take advantage of the chargeback scheme. Chargeback is the term used by card providers for reclaiming a card payment from the trader's bank. If you can provide evidence of a breach of contract (the goods were not delivered, are faulty or the trader has ceased trading for example) you can ask your card provider to attempt to recover the payment. Check with your card provider as to how the scheme rules apply to your card, whether internet transactions are covered and what the time limit is for making a claim
  • check whether the trader is a member of a trade association or regulatory body. Some trade associations and regulatory bodies provide dispute resolution schemes as part of the service so if you have a complaint against one of their members, they can assist in resolving the problem. The 'Trade associations & regulatory bodies' guide gives more information
  • consider using alternative dispute resolution as a way to resolve your complaint without going to court. As a last resort, you can take legal action against the trader in court. See 'Thinking of suing in court?' for more information on these options

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: June 2016

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

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