Q: Can customers return defective goods under the Consumer Protection Act?

I run a small business selling second-hand clothing. I’ve had some customers return clothes to me because of defects such as small stains, missing buttons or zips that stick. They tell me that they’re entitled to return defective goods under the Consumer Protection Act. I run a very small enterprise, and it’s hard on my business to keep on giving refunds like this. Also, when you buy second-hand clothes surely you’d expect that there may be small defects in some of the clothing?

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A:

The CPA doesn’t prohibit the sale of damaged or defective stock. But what it does do is impose an obligation on the seller to disclose all known defects or risks of defects in the goods. When selling second-hand goods like clothing, it’s important to make your customers aware that there are risks involved when buying second-hand goods. You can inform them that because the clothing is used, there may be rips, stains, missing buttons, zips that stick and other problems with the clothing, and they must check each item carefully before buying it. You can inform them that because the clothing is second-hand, you will not accept any returns if your customer subsequently finds a defect. This can be done, for example, with a clearly worded notice in your store and at your till point which you can point out to your customers when they come to pay. If the customer accepts the risk of defects by buying the clothing, knowing that it’s second-hand and not necessarily in perfect condition, you can then enforce a no-returns and no-refunds policy.

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