UK: Sale of Goods – The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002

Last Updated: 11 August 2003

On 31 March 2003, The Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 (‘’The Regulations’’) came into force. The Regulations bring about significant changes to the principal sale of goods and supply of services legislation, with a number of existing statutes being amended to introduce new implied terms favouring consumers, as well as creating new remedies for consumers. The Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1979, the Sale and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, The Sale and Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973 and The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 are all amended by the regulations which are the result of the implementation of the EC Directive 1999/44/EC.

SATISFACTORY QUALITY

The 1973, 1979 and 1982 Acts provide for an implied term that goods or services supplied in the course of business should be of satisfactory quality. The Regulations now widen the ambit of how the issue of satisfactory quality is to be determined, by extending the definition of ‘’satisfactory quality’’ to include:

’… any public statement on the specific characteristics of the goods made about them by the seller, the producer, or his representative, particularly in advertising or on labelling.’’

Clearly, in making it quite clear that statements made in any advertisements or labelling obviously affords greater scope in exploring circumstances in which a product may be held to be not to be of satisfactory quality. However, if a manufacturer is able to show that, at the time of the contract, the consumer was not or could not have been aware of any public statements made in such advertising or labelling, such that the consumer could not have been influenced by it, then the statement itself will not be relevant for the purposes of determining whether any product is of satisfactory quality. It will also be a defence for the manufacturer to show that the public statement was withdrawn or publicly corrected.

RIGHT TO REPAIR OR REPLACE GOODS

The 1979 and 1982 Acts are amended by the Regulations to allow consumers who order goods which do not confirm to contract at the time of the delivery, the right to require the seller to repair or replace the product. If a defect is discovered within the goods, during the first 6 months after delivery of the same, and that defect amounts to non-conformity with the contract of sale, then it will be regarded as having been in existence at the delivery, subject to certain minor exceptions.

If such a defect is discovered, the seller must, at his own cost, repair or replace the goods at the request of the consumer, within a reasonable period of time, and without causing any significant inconvenience to the consumer. However, the seller is not necessarily obliged to repair or replace the products if it can demonstrate that replacement or repair is impossible, or that it would be disproportionate to do so. Determining whether such repair/replacement would be disproportionate will largely focus on whether it would impose unreasonable costs upon the seller, in comparison to those arising from any other remedy which might be available to the buyer. The Courts will have power to order specific performance in respect of repair or replacement, but do have an overriding discretion to order an alternative remedy if that is deemed reasonable in the circumstances.

PASSING OF RISK

One point of interest arising out of the Regulations relates to the passing of risk. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 is now amended, such that when a buyer of a product deals as a consumer, the goods will remain at the seller’s risk until they are delivered to the consumer. Further, the parties to a consumer contract to the sale of goods will not be able to agree that risk should pass any earlier than delivery, even if title to the goods has already passed to the consumer.

AMENDMENT OF THE UCTA 1977

The 1977 Act is amended by the Regulations, such that individuals are treated as dealing as consumers, even if the goods which are supplied or hired by them are not of a type ordinarily supplied for private use or consumption. The 1977 Act is further amended as such that even when an individual buys new goods at auction, or by competitive tender, they will be treated as dealing as a consumer, such that they will be afforded the statutory protection against the inclusion of unfair terms within a contract of sale, insofar as goods purchased at auction or by competitive tender.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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