What's a consumer complaint letter about faulty goods supplied with a service and when do you need one?
Use this letter when you have agreed for a service to be performed (e.g. a kitchen installation or gardening) and as part of that service, the service provider also supplied you with goods (e.g. a fridge or a hot water tap or a fire pit), one or more of which turned out to be faulty.
If you want to complain purely about faulty goods, our separate template consumer complaint letter about faulty goods bought from a business (England and Wales) is the right starting point.
This letter is appropriate for complaints relating to services and goods in England and Wales.
If you’re a business wanting to complain about another business, not a consumer, please use our separate business complaints suites.
Faulty goods and your consumer rights
Consumers buying from a business seller are legally entitled to goods that:
- are ‘of a satisfactory quality’
- match their description at/before the point of sale
- are suitable (‘fit’) for the purpose for they are described as intended, and
- last for a reasonable amount of time
You may be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if there’s a problem with something you’ve bought. This is the case irrespective of whether the goods are supplied with a service or on their own, whether they’re brand new, on offer/discounted/in a sale, or second-hand.
These rights are triggered if what you bought is:
- broken or damaged ('not of satisfactory quality')
- unusable (‘not fit for purpose’)
- not what was advertised, or doesn’t match the seller’s description
However, by contrast, you won’t have these rights if what you bought was:
- damaged by normal wear and tear, an accident or due to your (or someone else’s) misuse of the item
- you knew about the fault before you bought the item
- there’s nothing wrong with the product, but you’ve just changed your mind (in which case, no matter what you bought, it’s down to the seller to determine what rights they want to give you. Many retailers chose to give customers a right to change their mind and to return items in an unused condition within a given time-frame, but they’re not legally obliged to do so).
For all goods but perishable goods (e.g. diary, meat, chemical goods), the right to a refund is limited to 30 days from the date that you take ownership of the goods – normally that’s the day you buy them and take them away with you, but it could be later than that if, for example, you buy the goods but the seller then delivers them to you at a later date – in which case, your ownership does not start until the day you have the goods in your possession.
After 30 days, you’re not legally entitled to a full refund if the goods develop a fault, although many sellers will offer an extended refund period. If you’re outside the 30-day period, you must give the retailer the opportunity, once, to repair or to replace the faulty goods. Which remedy you get is normally the retailer’s choice (and they’ll normally opt for the least costly/easiest remedy for them), but you of course specify what you’d prefer.
If you don’t reach a satisfactory repair/replacement outcome, then legally, you can claim a refund or, if you still want to keep the goods, a price reduction. However, there are a few scenarios where it would be reasonable for you to request a full or a partial refund.
These include where:
- it’s going to cost more/almost as much to replace/repair the goods, as you paid for them
- it’s not possible to do a repair or replacement
- it would cause significant disruption/inconvenience to you to repair or replace the goods, or
- repairing the goods would take an unreasonably amount of time.
If an attempt to repair the goods fails, or it’s just not possible to do repair or to replace them, or any replacement turns out to be faulty as well, you can reject the goods and to claim 100% refund of what you paid.
Proving there’s a fault
If you want a repair or a replacement for your faulty goods, then where the fault emerges during the first 6 months of you owning the goods, the law treats that fault as having been there when you acquired it - unless the seller can prove that’s not true. You do not have to prove anything.
Once you’ve owned the goods for 6 months, if the fault then materialises, the burden of proof switches, and it’s for you, as the purchaser, to prove that the goods were faulty at the time you bought them. This can be tricky and you may need to get an expert’s evaluation in writing to support your claim.
Faulty goods containing a digital element, like smart TVs, for example, carry a clear 30-day right to reject them in favour of a full refund. That’s the case if any part of the product, including any of its digital elements, (e.g. the operating software), has bugs or is defective. Again, if you want to complain about faulty digital content/goods, see our separate complaint template letter: Consumer letter complaining about poor digital content/download experience.
(There’s an exception for used cars here and you can find out more on this here.)
Most businesses these days have a website on which they display their contact details and often, the terms and conditions under which they sell (even if they’re not selling online). Take a look at these as they may (and ideally should) contain information about how you can complain to them and the time frames and rights they give you. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 specifies that you are entitled to an answer from your service provider/seller within 14 days for straightforward complaints, which applies to most complaints (3 months for more complex ones).
Keep copies of all your correspondence and any attached documents, such as receipts, copies of guarantees/warranties that you have activated (if relevant), etc. Some businesses will have self-imposed, or legally imposed deadlines for responding to you and for resolving your complaint. If they refer to these deadlines in their documentation, make sure you reference them in this letter too.
Warranties and guarantees
On top of your legal rights to a refund for faulty goods, you may be able to claim under a warranty or guarantee attached to the item you bought.
Warranties and guarantees are extra protections that give you extra legal rights. They attach to the product or service that you buy, and tend to be tailored quite specifically to it, so you’ll find they differ quite a bit and their protection is almost always time limited. They’re particularly beneficial because they avoid you needing to argue (and prove) that nothing you did caused the problem.
So, for example, if goods are faulty when you buy them, or they develop a fault a short while afterwards, then as long as you’re still in the time frame for which your product guarantee/warranty protection extends, you can automatically get a repair or a replacement.
They’re also useful where you bought the goods from a trader who then goes out of business, because they generally enable you to claim a repair or replacement from the manufacturer of the goods.
However, experts typically advise that you try to use your legal rights first, before claiming on your warranty or guarantee. Why?
This is particularly relevant if you want your money back quickly and/or speed of repair or replacement is important to you. Sellers can often move faster than manufacturers. (Still, the longer the period of time between the date you bought the goods and the date the problem with them arises, the less motivated a seller may feel to move fast.)
It is also relevant if the warranty or guarantee needed to be activated/registered with the manufacturer when you bought it, and you didn’t do it. You might still be able to register online, but without doing so, you may discover that your warranty/guarantee protections are invalidated.
And if you bought the goods second-hand or received them as a gift, you may not have warranty/guarantee protection. Unless the warranty/guarantee expressly says that it extends to ‘third party rights’, then only the person who actually bought the goods can claim the benefit of the warranty/guarantee.
Warranties and guarantees will usually contain directions on how to make a claim. This wording might be on the back of a receipt, in an email or provided in separate paperwork/pamphlet format. You should expect the details to include the length of time for which the warranty/guarantee will last and what remedy you’re entitled to, i.e. refund, replacement, repair, etc.
Make sure you follow the given instructions to make your claim. You can expect to be asked to provide proof of purchase (e.g. your receipt or a credit card/bank statement entry), details of the fault and a copy of/details contained on the warranty/guarantee paperwork.
Taking your complaint further
If you’re not satisfied with the response you get from the seller, then you can:
- find out if they have an ombudsman or other professional standards body to whom you can complain (sadly there isn’t really one for standard retailers); or
- you could consider complaining to Trading Standards; (Bear in mind, though, that your local trading standards department's role is to address the issue with the retailer, not to get your money back), or
- you could, depending on the supplier’s terms, suggest alternative dispute resolution/mediation.
- You might be able to rely on your card or payment provider for help, if you paid by a credit or debit card, you used a provider like Paypal, or your purchase was financed by a hire purchase company.
- Finally, you can consider a claim brought in the courts, though this can be costly and take some time to be heard.
Before taking any of those steps, it is highly advisable to see if you can get the seller to provide you with what’s often called a ‘letter of deadlock’, essentially, a letter confirming that the seller has not been able to resolve your complaint and you remain dissatisfied. This is a key piece of evidence, in your favour, that supports you seeking assistance from the above solution providers, proving that you have reasonably tried to reach a resolution on your own and been unable to do so.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you have 6 years to bring a faulty goods claim in the courts. Scotland has a 5-year time limit. That doesn’t mean that the goods you bought need to last 6 (or 5 years), simply that you won’t be able to bring claim about these faulty goods once these time periods have expired.
Help now and later
If you’d like help with your complaint and/or considering your options, you can use our speak to an adviser service, where a qualified expert can talk you through your options, and help you to decide the right next steps for you. Our guide: how to bring a consumer complaint against a business, contains more background and instructions on the wider context of consumer complaints and what to expect.