Sale of Goods Act
What is it?
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SOGA) aims to provide protection for consumers buying goods when their purchases are not quite what they paid for. The Act regulates the relationship between the seller and the buyer and ensures that the goods sold fit their description as well as their purpose and if they do not the seller is under an obligation to correct the wrong by providing a refund or replacement.
Some useful terminology
Goods: these are tangible assets with the exception of land and currency. Goods can be existing or future (yet to be manufactured), specific (agreed at the time of the contract) or unascertained (goods of general description such as a bag of wheat)
Contract for the sale of goods: an agreement whereby the seller agrees to sell goods and the buyer agrees to buy them for a price
Express terms: these are the terms of the contract specifically agreed between the seller and the buyer (such as a delivery date or address)
Implied terms: these are the terms of the contract which are not expressly agreed but are implied to the contract either by the means of statute, previous dealings between the parties or customs in the particular trade
Conditions: are the major terms of the contract, they are the essence of the contract and their breach can bring a contract to an end
Warranties: these are terms of a contract of a minor importance and if they are breached the contract remains in place but the injured party can claim damages
Subject matter of the contract: goods as described above
The price: it might be stipulated in the contract, or implied by the course of dealings between the parties. Otherwise it must be reasonable and can be agreed at valuation of the goods
Time: time is not of the essence unless the contract specifies otherwise (i.e. provides the time of payment etc.)
Sale by description: when goods are sold as described (such as through distance selling where a customer only reads a description or sees a picture as opposed to actually seeing the goods) then there is an implied term that the goods will match the description
Satisfactory quality and fitness: there is an implied term that the goods sold are of satisfactory quality if the seller sells the goods in the course of a business (such as shop). This means that the goods are of a reasonable standard, which includes:
- Appearance and finish being free from defects
- Fitness for all purposes for which the goods are supplied (such as that running shoes are appropriate for running)
If any of the above was drawn to the buyer’s attention before the contract was made or if it was revealed when the buyer has had an opportunity to inspect the goods him or herself then the implied terms do not apply.
Fitness for purpose: if the buyer has made a purpose of his purchase known to the seller before the contract was made, then the buyer is under an obligation to make sure that the goods are appropriate for this particular purpose. This provision applies if it is reasonable for the buyer to rely on the seller’s expertise (such as buying motorbike gear from a specialist motorbike shop rather than an online trader who also sells mainly garden equipment).
If the goods bought do not meet the satisfactory quality or fitness for purpose provisions, the buyer might be entitled to return the goods and receive a full refund or, depending on the type of goods, to have the goods replaced or repaired.
Right to reject faulty goods
The buyer has got the right to reject the goods if they are faulty but he or she must do so in a reasonable time (preferably immediately but can be up to a couple of weeks after receiving the goods). If the buyer rejects the goods he or she is entitled to get their money back.
Right to have the goods replaced or repaired
In certain circumstances depending on the nature of goods subject to the contract, the buyer has got the right to ask to have their goods repaired or replaced. The replacement or repair should not cause the buyer too much inconvenience and it is usually the seller who covers the costs of delivery or any transportation. The buyer can request replacement or repair at any time up to six weeks after receiving the goods.