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Case studies - A £5,490 refund on a sofa that began to fall apart

Advice from Which? Legal Service helped Sam Leitch recover the full cost of a sofa – 11 months after she bought it. Sam bought the leather corner sofa and chair from SCS Edinburgh for £5,490 in July 2009. In under a year, she noticed the sofa’s stitching starting to unravel and reported the fault to SCS. Sam was shocked that a technician from the company who came round to inspect it, glued it back together. Seven days later, it started coming apart again. Sam contacted her local trading standards office, which contacted SCS. SCS said that it required photographs of the fault, and wanted to send round another technician – who turned out to be the same person. SCS then, via the manufacturers, offered to replace the sofa covers. Sam reluctantly accepted this, provided they were a perfect colour match to the rest of the suite. There had been a previous fault with one of the panels on the sofa which, while it was replaced quite quickly, wasn’t a perfect match. But in fact the samples sent to Sam didn’t match the suite and for that reason the replacement leather panel wasn’t fitted.

Our advice

Sam contacted us for advice. We told her that her claim was against SCS for selling her a suite that wasn’t of satisfactory quality as it hadn’t proved durable. We explained that, under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, if goods aren’t of satisfactory quality, a retailer can offer to carry out a repair, but it must be done in a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience. SCS hadn’t done this, so she could rescind the contract and ask for a partial refund. We also advised Sam that as she had paid the deposit on her Santander credit card, any claim she had against SCS she could also bring against Santander as they were jointly and severally liable for the breach of contract under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Sam went back to Trading Standards, asking it to tell SCS she wanted it to collect the suite and give her a refund. Instead, SCS offered her a replacement but she said it had had ample time to repair or replace the suite. In October 2011, the company agreed to collect the suite and paid Sam all her money back.

The Law

Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, goods must be of satisfactory quality. So, an expensive new suite should be without defects and last a reasonable time. If you act quickly (normally within a month) you can reject faulty goods and get a full refund. If there’s a fault after that, you can ask the retailer to repair or replace the goods (in reality it will be the retailer’s choice) but the repair or replacement must be done in reasonable time, and without significant inconvenience. If it doesn’t, you can rescind the contract and ask for a refund. If you rescind a contract after having use of the goods, the retailer can deduct an amount for that use