Product recalls and faulty goods: what you need to know
27 February, 2018
It seems to be an almost daily occurrence that faulty product recalls make the news. Some are more serious than others, such as the recent news that three batches of asthma inhalers have been recalled because they do not deliver the correct dose; something that could have potentially fatal consequences.
Others are not so deadly but could still cause serious harm, for example the Food Standards Agency recently announced that they are recalling own-brand ketchup sold in Londis and Budgens stores because it contains pieces of plastic.
So if you encounter a faulty product, what are your rights and what can you do?
What do we mean by ‘faulty’?
- Poor product design, resulting in the item not being fit for purpose
- Contamination during manufacturing
- Failure to display sufficient warning on a product.
You can claim compensation for personal injuries caused by a defective, faulty or dangerous product if you can prove that the goods or product were defective.
What does the law say?
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, all products must meet three standards:
- Satisfactory quality: When you buy a product it should not be faulty or damaged when purchased, and it should be judged on what a ‘reasonable person’ would find satisfactory.
- Fit for purpose: If the goods you purchase are unusable for the purpose you bought them for, or a purpose you agreed with the retailer before the sale, then they will be considered unfit for purpose.
- As described: The product should match any model or sample shown to you at the time of purchase, or any description you were given of the item (i.e. for online purchases)
How can you find out about product recalls?
There are a number of ways to find out whether products you have purchased have been recalled. You can find a full list of available websites on Which.co.uk.
What can you do if you purchase a faulty product?
If you purchase an item in person, and it does not meet the required standards, then you have the right to a refund within 30 days of purchase.
This right does not apply to online purchases however. You must first be offered a repair or replacement before you can claim a refund.
After the 30 days expire, the law differs depending on if it’s within the first six months or after. During the first six months, if an attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful then the retailer must give you a full refund. This only differs for motor vehicles, where the retailer has the right to make a fair use deduction after the initial 30 days are up.
If you have owned the item for more than six months and you require a replacement, then the burden lies with you in proving that the product was faulty when you received it. This may mean getting an expert opinion, or there are examples of other faults in the range (for example when Vauxhall Zafira cars were spontaneously combusting). After six months the retailer is also able to deduct fair use from any refund if a repair or replacement is unsuccessful.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you have up to six years to take a faulty goods claim to small claims court, and in Scotland you have five years to do so.
What if a faulty product causes you harm or injury?
Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, if a product causes injury, damage or death due to being unsafe then you can sue the manufacturer, even if you did not purchase the item yourself.
Compensation can be for death or injury, but also for the damage or loss of private property as a result of faulty goods if the damage is over the value of £275.
There is no maximum to the amount of compensation you can claim, but it is dependant on the extent of the harm suffered.
In the case of faulty product claims, the time limitation for a claim is 10 years – but because a causal link between the product being defective and your injury has to be proved, it is important to seek legal advice.
If you have been injured as a result of a faulty product then get in touch with our advisers who will be able to give you expert advice and assess whether you are likely to have a claim.