In the guide
Any products (including food and drink) that are sold - whether on-premises, off-premises or at a distance - are 'goods'
A legal contract for the sale or supply of goods exists between you and your customer. This means that you - not the manufacturer - are responsible for the goods that you supply.
The law sets out:
- requirements for goods to conform to contract
- time limits for legal action
- what customers are entitled to when something goes wrong
These rules apply whether or not you also supply a service and/or digital content as part of the same contract.
Goods: your obligations
Consumers are entitled by law to expect that goods they buy conform to the contract. This means that the goods you sell should be:
- of satisfactory quality
- fit for their intended purpose (and any purpose you told a customer they were suitable for)
- as described
- installed correctly (where installation is part of the contract)
Card payments and credit
There are additional rules that apply when you accept card payments or offer credit.
Please see the 'Pricing and payment' Quick Guide for more information.
Are customers entitled to a refund, repair or replacement?
Consumers do not have the legal right to any remedy for problems:
- caused by them damaging or misusing the goods, accidently or otherwise
- caused by their own attempts to repair the goods
- they knew about before they bought the goods
If the goods are faulty, then consumers have the legal right to one of the following 'remedies':
- a full or part refund
- a replacement or repair
- a price reduction
- compensation for losses incurred
The remedy that you are required to give depends on the circumstances of each sale - for example, how long the consumer has owned the goods, and any wear and tear.Back to top
Time for action
The law sets a time limit for customers to take legal action. In England and Wales this time limit is generally six years from sale or delivery; in Scotland the limit is five years, but this runs from the time the customer first discovered the problem (broadly speaking).
Selling online, by phone / mail order or off-premises
Consumers have extra rights when they buy at a distance (online, phone, mail order, etc) or off-premises (such as at their home).
You are legally bound to honour the terms of any free guarantee you offer to consumers.Back to top
Unless you and your customer agree a different arrangement, you must deliver goods without undue delay, or in any event no more than 30 days after you make the contract.
If you and the consumer agree a specific date for delivery of the goods as part of the contract and you do not deliver on that date, the consumer can cancel and claim a refund from you.
If you did not agree a specific date but only gave a general estimate, the consumer can give you a written delivery deadline (after the estimated date has passed) and then cancel the order if you do not deliver by that date. In addition you may be liable to pay the consumer compensation.
For more detailed information please see the In-depth Guides below. Once you've finished, make sure you look at the full range of Quick Guides to see whether there are any other areas of law that affect your business.
Before you start
Make sure you choose your location using the drop-down list at the top of the page. The In-depth Guides provide country-specific information as some laws are different in England, Scotland and Wales, and some are enforced differently.
In-depth guidanceThis is a general guide and you may well need to know more; take a look below where we've listed our In-depth Guides on specific topics related to the sale of goods
The law prohibits the giving of false or misleading information to consumers, but what does this mean?
When dealing with consumers you must ensure that you act fairly; you must provide accurate information and avoid business practices that are unfair, misleading or aggressive
Understand your obligations when you sell goods, services and/or digital content alongside each other
Websites that publish reviews must ensure they provide the full picture to consumers
Find out how to tell your customers about their legal rights and your goodwill returns policy when they buy goods from you
Understand what your obligations are – under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – when a consumer buys goods from you
Contract terms are not binding on consumers unless they are fair
Delivery charges to consumers must be clear and not misleading
Mileage descriptions are a key component of selling used vehicles; understand what the law requires
The law requires part-worn tyres to be labelled and to meet minimum safety standards
Used vehicles on sale must be given a truthful description, and must also be safe and roadworthy
Selling antiques or antiquities? You must take great care that you do not mislead consumers or other businesses
There are different requirements when selling at car boot sales, depending on whether or not you are a 'trader' in the eyes of the law
Energy-efficiency labels must be displayed on certain electrical goods that are for sale
Footwear must be labelled with the main materials used for the upper, lining and sock, and outer sole
If you sell textiles you need to label them correctly with the fibre content, including fur and other animal parts.
All businesses are required to charge for most new single-use carrier bags they supply
Businesses need to ensure that environmental claims made about their products or services are not misleading