Q: I purchased a new robotic milking machine this year. After a few months of ownership, it broke down. A representative from the company that I bought it from came out to repair it, but soon after, it broke down again.
Since then I stopped using the machine entirely, and recommenced milking manually. I have told the company I want my money back, but they have offered another repair. Have you any advice? What are my rights to get my money back?
A: Dear Reader,
Thank you for your letter. When you buy goods and services, you enter into a contract with the seller.
A contract can be written or oral. It is always better to have a written contract, as it is easier to know what the terms are, there is a record of them, and it minimises ambiguities. An oral contract is, however, still enforceable by law.
Consumer contracts are protected by the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980. Under this Act, the purchaser of goods has a number of rights.
The main ones are as follows:
Goods must be of merchantable quality — goods should be of reasonable quality taking into account what they are meant to do, their durability and their price.
Goods must be fit for their purpose — they must do what they are reasonably expected to do.
Goods must be as described — the buyer must not be misled into buying something by the description of goods or services given orally by a salesperson or an advertisement.
You have a contract with the retailer, so it is the retailer’s responsibility to put things right.
As a general rule, the seller can either repair or replace the item.
Alternatively, they can refund the cost of the item or service to you.
As you are not satisfied with the machine, you can return the goods to the supplier who sold it to you.
You should not return the goods to the manufacturer.
You should also act as soon as possible. A delay can indicate that you have accepted faulty goods, and can weaken your position.
Do not attempt to repair the item yourself, or give it to anyone else to repair it.
Make sure that you have a proof of purchase (a receipt, cheque stub, credit card statement or invoice).
You have not mentioned in your letter whether you were given a warranty when you purchased the machine.
If you have a warranty, you will be afforded extra protection. It is the retailer’s responsibility to provide a remedy under the warranty, unless they have opted out of this and advised you. You should carefully check the terms and conditions of any warranty.
Problems and faults with items you buy can be major or minor, and there are different issues for particular products.
A major fault is one where the item does not work as it is supposed to, whereas a minor fault is one where the item will still work and do what it is supposed to. This is a case that would be regarded as a major fault, as the machine is not fit for purpose.
You have not mentioned how many months you have owned the machine for.
If you have owned the machine for less than six months, then it is accepted that the fault was there when you purchased the machine.
If you purchased the machine over six months ago, you are deemed that you have accepted the item but if you discover a fault, you are entitled to have the item repaired or replaced free of charge, provided you did not cause the damage. The seller can offer to repair the item first. This should be a permanent repair and the problem should not reoccur.
If the same fault occurs again, you should be entitled to a replacement or refund, and your contract with the retailer will terminate.
Finally, if you are not getting any satisfaction from the retailer, you should arrange to get the machine inspected by an independent agricultural assessor whose report can be relied upon in court proceedings.
This report will help in determining whether you should pursue the matter through the courts for a claim for a breach of contract.
You have no grounds for redress if you were told about the defect before you bought the item; you examined the item before you bought it and should have seen the defect; you broke or damaged the machine; or you change your mind.
Retailers are not obliged in these circumstances to give refunds or credit notes, even if you show proof of purchase.
It is important to note that there are no hard and fast rules as to which remedy you should be entitled to.
When seeking redress for problems with goods or services, the circumstances of each individual case must be taken into account.
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