What businesses need to know about selling products

18th October 2019

By law, any goods that you sell must be as described, of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose. If the product fails to meet any of these criteria, the buyer is entitled to a refund.

As described

This means that the product you sell must match the description that the buyer read or heard from you – this description could be provided on a website or in a catalogue, or given by you or an employee.

This means you can’t mislead the customer by telling them something about the product which isn’t true, or describe it as having features that it doesn’t have. For example, if you describe a pair of shoes as being red, you can’t send the buyer a pair which are blue.

Of satisfactory quality

This means that the product should meet reasonable standards for how it looks, how well made it is, and how well it lasts. This is largely based on how much the item cost – for example, a more expensive pair of shoes would be expected to last longer and be of better quality than a cheap pair of shoes.

Other factors can affect whether or not a product is satisfactory – for example, a product with some wear and tear on it wouldn’t be considered of satisfactory quality unless it was second hand, and the seller had informed the buyer of the wear and tear. If the buyer was not told that the product was second-hand, it would not be “as described”.

Fit for purpose

This means that the product should be able to do what it is supposed to do, or what the seller has told the buyer it will be able to do.

For example, if you bought a pair of shoes, it is a reasonable expectation that you should be able to wear them on your feet – if it turns out that the shoes were not designed to be worn on feet, they could not be described as fit for purpose.

When the buyer has bought a product for a specific purpose, their rights will depend on what they told the seller beforehand. If a customer told you that they wanted a pair of shoes suited to running, and you recommended and sold them a pair that were not appropriate for this, they would be entitled to a refund.

However, if the buyer had not explicitly stated that the shoes were designed for running, you would have no way of knowing that the buyer wanted to use them for running, and you couldn’t have misled them.

Consumer Contracts Regulations

As the name suggests, these will affect your business if you are selling goods or services over the telephone, online, or via another long-distance method.

Distance selling gives the consumer more rights, as they are unable to see or try the product before they buy it. This means that you, as the seller, must provide the customer with some information before they place their order, such as:

  • A description of the goods or service, as well as the full price;
  • Information on delivery and costs;
  • The name of your business and how they can contact you;
  • Information about their contract, including the minimum length and how to cancel it;
  • Their cancellation rights;
  • Whether or not they will have to pay to return the goods.

Once a customer has placed their order, you will need to provide them with extra information in writing (by letter or by email). This information will include:

  • Full details of what they have purchased and what they have/will be charged;
  • When and how the goods or services will be delivered or provided;
  • Details of how to cancel their order or return their goods;
  • An address at which to contact you if they have a complaint, as well as information on any extra call charges they will have to pay for any helpline you provide.

If the product or service was sold online, you also need to provide the buyer with email confirmation of their order as soon as possible, and make it reasonably possible for them to correct any mistakes in their order. You should also provide the buyer with an email address at which to contact you.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

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