First reply to a complaint about goods you've supplied

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What's a first reply to a complaint about goods you've supplied, and when do you need it?

You should use this letter of response at the start of any correspondence with a business customer who has complained that the goods you supplied are faulty, damaged and/or not what the customer requested.

(This template covers sales of goods between two businesses. It is not appropriate for a response to a consumer who wishes to complain about goods that it has bought from your business.)

Sales between businesses are governed by the Sale of Goods act. (Sales by a business to a consumer fall within the remit of the Consumer Rights Act.) One of the most important conditions imposed on a supplier under this law is that the goods they supply are 'fit for purpose'.

In legal terms, this means that the goods can be used everyday, for the reasons they are intended, as well as any specific additional purpose for which, as the seller/supplier, you may have told your customer they would also be suitable, e.g. you tell a customer that a printer will be compatible with their laptop, or that a particular paint will be appropriate to paint a radiator or a bathroom).

Goods sold must also match any samples that you show your customer and any descriptions that you provide in a catalogue. The only exception to this rule is if you specifically pointed out a defect or issue to the customer before they ordered or bought the goods. So, if the customer saw the goods and had the chance to notice (but didn't) that they were not satisfactory or fit for purpose, and their condition or suitability would have been reasonably obvious to most people in the customer's position, then you'd have an easier time arguing that the goods were acceptable and not unfit for purpose or of unsatisfactory quality. But if you had obscured defects or they would not have been obvious (i.e. you couldn't open the packaging or see through it), before the customer bought your product, then the customer could well have a good justification to make the complaint against you.