Buying clothes - your rights
This article has been written to help you to understand your consumer rights when buying clothes either on-line of off-line. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 states that any goods or services you buy (including clothing) must be:
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This means that, for example, if you were to purchase a dress online, it must be suitable for being worn - ie, it must be free from manufacturing defects, any buttons must be in place and there should be no holes or tears.
It must also be fit for its purpose - so if you bought a raincoat, it should protect you from the rain.
It must be as described, which means if you bought a silk shirt, the material must be silk when it arrives, and not polyester or a different fibre.
What do I do if the clothing I buy does not satisfy the above conditions?
If you have not worn the clothing and you purchased it recently, then you are entitled to a refund.
If you have worn the clothing a few times or have only recently noticed the faults, then you are probably entitled to a refund, provided it is evident that the faults existed at the time the item was purchased. In either of the above cases you can accept a replacement if you would prefer to do this, but you are not obligated to accept a replacement.
If the fault only comes to light after you have worn the clothing for a while, then you are probably entitled to have the item repaired or replaced, dependent upon whether or not it was reasonable to believe that the item should have lasted longer. If the repair is unsatisfactory, then you are entitled to a replacement or you must be compensated. The amount of compensation may be lower than the initial purchase price to allow for the amount of time you have had use of the goods.
If there is consequential loss - eg you followed the washing instructions, but the colour ran and damaged other articles of your clothing, then you may be entitled to additional compensation. However, trying to achieve additional compensation would in practice be difficult.
Your contract is with the retailer, not the manufacturer. It is the retailer who must refund / replace the item or compensate you.
You should remember that you must follow the instructions regarding washing / ironing / handling of clothing, and you can't expect it to last forever.
What do I do if I change my mind about the clothing?
If you have bought your clothes from a bricks and mortar retail outlet and change your mind about them - for example if the clothing doesn't fit - then you have no statutory rights to a replacement or a refund. However, most retailers in practice will at least replace the item or give you a credit note. However, if you ask the retailer directly "Can I bring this back for a refund if it does not fit?" and the retailer agrees, then you would become legally entitled to a refund.
However, if you buy your clothing online or from a catalogue, you have not had chance to examine the items properly. The law accepts this, and thus if you buy online you have seven working days to change your mind after receipt of the items, and you may return them for a full refund (although not all online stores refund postage costs). The exception to this is if the goods are made to order or personalised for you in some way - for example a T-Shirt printed with the logo / design of your choice.
I need to get a refund - what should I do?
If you are entitled to a refund under the Sale of Goods Act, you should stop using the clothing and take it back to the store where you bought it, together with reasonable proof of purchase. This does not have to be a store receipt - it could be an entry on your credit card statement or bank statement, or exclusive store packaging, for example.
This article has been written to provide information only and is not a complete guide to UK consumer law.
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