AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Clothes and shoes

Contents

The law requires that any item of clothing (including a pair of shoes) must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose; and
  • as described.
This means it must be:

  • Fit to be worn - the seams should not be coming apart or the material flawed
  • What you asked for - for example, waterproof
  • The same size as stated on the label
You can find out about these rights in the section Introduction to your legal rights.

When an item doesn't meet any of its conditions

Before use

When you buy an item of clothing that is faulty before it has been used, you should be entitled to a full or partial refund. This won't be the case, however, if you had a reasonable opportunity to examine the item when buying it and the fault was so obvious that you should have noticed it.

Whether you're entitled to a full refund depends on whether you've 'accepted' the item of clothing. The Sale of Goods Act states that you have a 'reasonable time' to examine goods after purchase before they're regarded as being 'accepted' by you. It doesn't specifically state how long a 'reasonable time' is; it depends on factors like how often you use the item, the type of fault (whether it's obvious or not) and whether you've continued to use the item despite knowing it has a fault.

If you've accepted the item of clothing, you may be entitled to a repair or replacement. The seller is entitled to refuse either of these if the cost of doing so would be excessive in comparison to the alternative. Whatever remedy is agreed, it shouldn't result in undue inconvenience to you.

After wearing the item only a few times

If you only worn it a few times before a fault arose, you may be entitled to a refund (assuming that you didn't have a reasonable opportunity to examine the item when buying it and the fault wasn't so obvious that you should have noticed it). However, you'll only be entitled to a refund if you haven't accepted the item (see above).

Alternatively, you may request that the item be repaired or replaced. If the fault is only minor and can easily be put right, it's reasonable to accept a repair. This repair should be done to a satisfactory standard at no additional cost to you. If the repair isn't carried out to a satisfactory standard, you're entitled to request a refund.

In the first 6 months from the date of purchase, when you return an item of clothing to request a repair or replacement, you don't have to prove that the item was faulty at the time of sale. There's an assumption that the item of clothing was faulty unless the seller can prove otherwise. If you opt for a refund rather than a repair or replacement, the onus will be on you to prove that the item was faulty at the time of sale.

After wearing the item more than a few times

If you've worn it more than a few times or had a reasonable opportunity to check it, you might not qualify for a refund, but you may still be entitled to a repair or replacement.

A repair should be carried out within a reasonable period of time and without causing you significant inconvenience. Any repair should restore goods to a satisfactory condition. If it's not restored to a satisfactory condition, you should be entitled to a partial refund. (This will be less than the price you paid to allow for the use you've had from the item.)

If an item can't be repaired or replaced

If the item of clothing can't be replaced or repaired economically, you're entitled to a refund. The seller may make a reduction from the price you paid to allow for the use you've had from the clothing.

If a fault has caused additional expense

If anything else has been damaged (e.g. if the colour ran due to a fault and discoloured other clothes), or you're out of pocket in any other way, you may be entitled to compensation over and above the price of the item.

Important points

You have no rights if:

  • the item doesn't fit;
  • you change your mind; or
  • you've selected the wrong clothes for a particular use.
However, you have 14 calendar days to cancel a contract for goods ordered by telephone, mail order, internet or fax, except for those goods that are made to order.

Remember that no items last forever and all clothes need to be looked after to avoid unnecessary damage. However, if there are genuine problems with an item of clothing, the seller must fix the situation. The seller can't tell you to go back to the manufacturer.

If things go wrong

As soon as you've determined that there is a problem with an item of clothing that you've bought:

  • Stop wearing the item of clothing.
  • Make sure that the fault wasn't caused by misuse, an accident, normal wear and tear or by not following the care label.
  • Find your proof of purchase. If you haven't got a receipt, you can use a credit card voucher or cheque stub. Own-brand goods, something exclusive to one shop (like a customised carrier bag) or the packaging may prove where you bought the item. If someone was with you when you bought it, they can back you up. Remember that it's up to you to show where and when you bought the clothes.
  • You now need to contact the seller straight away and report the problem. Take the item, the packaging (if possible) and any proof of purchase with you. If you can't take the clothes back to the shop, phone or write to the seller.