I was asked for advice on problems with a faulty sofa with a well-known retailer that cost £1,000. Problems with faulty sofas and consumer rights appears to be a common problem, so I was surprised it has taken so long to hit my radar.

BACKGROUND

The customer asked on Twitter, “Would you be happy with the condition of your + £1,000 sofa looking like this after weeks of use? It’s poor quality and they have pretty much said to take the inners out of the covers every day and rework them?”

This was the photo she uploaded. I have seen better quality sofas in a charity shop.

faulty-sofas-and-your-consumer-rights

The customer raised a complaint within days and took a screenshot of the closing response which said, “Support Resolved: Poor Quality”.

The issues remained unresolved after 3 months and it appears to be unfit for use. Someone mentioned that it seems that inferior foam has been used that is breaking apart.

It was paid for by credit card.

WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS ON FAULTY SOFAS AND FURNITURE?

You are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement whether it is new or second-hand on faulty sofas.

You only need to give a retailer one opportunity to remedy the same fault.

CONSUMER RIGHTS ACT 2015

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that any product sold ought to be:

  • Fit for purpose
  • As described
  • Satisfactory quality
  • Last a reasonable length of time

You have a short-term right to reject within 30 days and request a full refund. Once that has elapsed, you are entitled to a remedy within the first 6 months. The retailer can elect to give you a refund, repair or a replacement.

You only need to give a retailer one opportunity to repair the same fault.

The onus is on the retailer to prove it was not faulty within the first 6 months. This is referred to as the reverse burden of proof.

After 6 months, the onus is on you to prove it was faulty. This can be done either by a Google search for common faults or an independent report. A Google search with common faults in the public domain overrides the need for an independent report as it proves it was faulty when sold.

A trader can make a deduction for use after 6 months based on the likely lifespan of the product.

SHORT-TERM RIGHT TO REJECT WITHIN 30 DAYS

That has elapsed in this case, although crucially the retailer has confirmed that the sofa is poor quality within 30 days. The sofa clearly does not meet the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

ACTION

I would take the following action:

  • Reject the sofa in writing under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • Raise a chargeback with the credit card provider under S75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 as they are jointly liable.
  • Request a full refund under the circumstances in-line with the retailer confirming it was poor quality within 30 days.

SECTION 75 CONSUMER CREDIT ACT 1974

This applies and holds a credit card provider jointly liable for purchases over £100, even if a deposit of 1p has been paid by credit card.

You can raise a chargeback within 180 days with a credit card provider.

FINANCE AGREEMENTS

If the sofa has been bought on finance, it belongs to the finance company. You can make your problem theirs by rejecting it in writing under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and hold them jointly liable under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

WEAR AND TEAR DEDUCTIONS

I would not accept a fob off for wear and tear either on deductions in this instance.

The customer is entitled to a full refund under the circumstances as it clearly has inherent faults. This has been confirmed in writing by the retailer within 30 days.

You can expect wear and tear deductions once 6 months has elapsed. Deductions are calculated based on the estimated lifespan of the product.

MISREPRESENTATION ACT 1967

The Misrepresentation Act 1967 applies as well as the sofa was misrepresented when it was sold as meeting the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Misrepresentation Act 1967 also has a reverse burden of proof. This means that the retailer needs to prove that a misrepresentation did not take place and was not faulty when it was sold. It clearly was and this has been confirmed.

This reinforces your consumer rights.

CAN I RETURN A SOFA I BOUGHT ONLINE?

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 gives you the right to cancel and return online purchases within 14 days of receipt for any reason. This is often referred to as a ‘cooling off period’.

This does not affect your consumer rights. You still have 30 days to return faulty items for a full refund.

SMALL CLAIMS COURT

You can take your claim to the Small Claims Court, although this has to be seen as the last resort.

You will be expected to prove that you have tried to resolve your dispute with the retailer first.

There is a sliding scale of fees which are refundable if you win your case.

Put everything in writing, stick to the facts and bullet-point the timeframe so it is easy to follow.

Try to resolve the dispute by telling the retailer why you intend to claim against them, suggesting a timetable with actions you want them to take and explaining that you will go to Court if they do not follow that timetable.

Ask if they have a complaints process. You need to give a retailer every opportunity to settle it before you take legal action. 

If you have exhausted all those options, you can complete a Small Claims form online via www.gov.uk/make-money-claim – but do not submit it yet. 

LETTER BEFORE ACTION

Send a ‘letter before action’ to the retailer with a copy of the Small Claim form, telling them you are giving them 14 days’ notice before proceeding.

A ‘letter before action’ simply puts the retailer on notice and gives them one final opportunity to settle your case.

You can send it by email. There is no legal requirement to use recorded delivery.

The ‘letter before action’ should include the basis on which the claim is made, a summary of the facts, what you want and how the sum of money is calculated.

Include key documents relevant to the issue in dispute that can be relied on in Court alongside proof that you have tried to resolve your dispute out of Court.

Close it with a clear statement that you will initiate Court proceedings if you do not receive a reply.

Have you had problems with faulty sofas? If so, how did you resolve it and what was the outcome?

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