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.

If you supply services and/or digital content as well, you'll need to read the Quick Guides 'Services' and 'Digital'.

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.

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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.

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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).

When you've finished reading this, take a look at our 'Distance sales' and 'Off-premises sales' Quick Guides if these apply to you.

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You are legally bound to honour the terms of any free guarantee you offer to consumers.

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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.

You'll find more information on delivery in our 'Distance sales', 'Off-premises sales' and 'On-premises sales' Quick Guides.

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.

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In-depth guidance

This 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


Accurate descriptions

The law prohibits the giving of false or misleading information to consumers, but what does this mean?

Consumer protection from unfair trading

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

Mixed contracts

Understand your obligations when you sell goods, services and/or digital content alongside each other

Online reviews and endorsements

Websites that publish reviews must ensure they provide the full picture to consumers

Writing a returns policy

Find out how to tell your customers about their legal rights and your goodwill returns policy when they buy goods from you

Selling and supplying goods

Understand what your obligations are – under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 – when a consumer buys goods from you

Unfair contract terms

Contract terms are not binding on consumers unless they are fair

Delivery charges

Delivery charges to consumers must be clear and not misleading


Mileage of used vehicles

Mileage descriptions are a key component of selling used vehicles; understand what the law requires

Part-worn tyres

The law requires part-worn tyres to be labelled and to meet minimum safety standards

Used car sales

Used vehicles on sale must be given a truthful description, and must also be safe and roadworthy


Antiques and antiquities

Selling antiques or antiquities? You must take great care that you do not mislead consumers or other businesses

Car boot sales

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 rating information

Energy-efficiency labels must be displayed on certain electrical goods that are for sale

Labelling of footwear

Footwear must be labelled with the main materials used for the upper, lining and sock, and outer sole

Labelling of textiles

If you sell textiles you need to label them correctly with the fibre content, including fur and other animal parts.

Single-use carrier bags

All businesses are required to charge for most new single-use carrier bags they supply

Environmental ('green') claims

Businesses need to ensure that environmental claims made about their products or services are not misleading

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Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

How many years have you been trading?
How many employees are there in your business?

Business enquiries are dealt with by your local council. Use the Chartered Trading Standards Institute's postcode finder to locate your local trading standards team.

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