AA Legal Documents
Law guide

Computers & printers


The law requires that any personal computer (PC) or printer you buy must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose; and
  • as described.

You can find out more about your rights in the section Introduction to your legal rights.

Before buying

Think about what you want your PC or printer to do, and decide your budget.

Don't buy a more complex PC than you need, but at the same time think about what you might want it to do in the future.

Don't assume that a cheap printer is always a good bargain. It may use more ink and therefore be more expensive to run. The best printer for you will depend on more than the initial price.

Talk to sellers - explain what you want your computer to do and ask for their advice.

Buying on credit

If buying on credit, shop around because your seller may not offer the best deal. Try to make sure that you check the terms on early settlement in your credit agreement because some schemes can carry heavy penalties for settling a credit agreement early.

Using credit card protection

If you buy your system using a credit card or finance agreement, you may have additional protection. Credit providers may share liability for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by suppliers of the goods or services, which have been partially financed by the credit.

See Introduction to your legal rights for more information.

Where to buy

There are a number of different ways in which you can buy your PC or printer, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Buying from a manufacturer or supplier direct

This is a good option if you know what you want. It can be cheaper because the sellers' overheads are low. Buying by telephone, mail order or on the internet will entitle you to a 14-day cooling off period after the goods are delivered, so you get a chance to check them over and cancel if it's not what you want.

High street shops/superstores

Although you may be physically able to see the product, test it and get any advice you need, you may not be able to take the PC away immediately as many are built to order.

Buying from a shop limits your legal rights as it doesn't give you the opportunity to return the item if you decide that you no longer want it for any reason (other than the reasons protected by law - see above). For example, you won't always be able to return just because you realise that you bought the wrong product for your requirements.

Some high street retailers may have return policies that give their customers the opportunity to return unwanted items within a specific time period. However, this isn't a legal requirement and is dependent on each retailer's discretion.

When buying

Buying online

When buying online, make sure the company has a UK contact address and telephone number in case you need to get in contact with them.

Read terms and conditions

Always read the terms and conditions and small print on any official forms. Make sure you know what your terms and conditions cover and what they don't.

Retain all paperwork

Make sure you get and keep copies of all receipts, details of the order, confirmations, correspondence and order numbers of your purchase.

If things go wrong

If you're unhappy with your PC or with the service provided by the seller, try to sort it out directly with the seller (or the head office if the seller is part of a chain).

  • If you can, stop using the PC.
  • Be certain that the fault wasn't caused by misuse, an accident or by not following any assembly instructions.
  • 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 (such as 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 it's up to you to show where and when you bought the goods.
  • 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 goods back to the shop, phone or write to the seller.

Faults before use

When you buy a PC or printer that's faulty before it has been used, you should be entitled to a full or partial refund unless you had a reasonable opportunity to examine it when buying 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 PC or printer. The Sale of Goods Act states that you have 'reasonable time' to examine goods after buying them before they're seen as being 'accepted' by you. It doesn't specifically state how long a 'reasonable time' is; it depends on factors such as how often you use the item, the type of fault (e.g. 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 PC or printer, 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 solution is agreed, it shouldn't result in undue inconvenience to you.

After using the PC or printer only a few times

If you only used the PC or printer a few times before a fault happened, you may be entitled to a refund (assuming that you didn't have a reasonable opportunity to examine it when buying and the fault was not so obvious that you should have noticed it). However, this will only be the case as long as you haven't accepted the PC or printer (see above).

Alternatively, you can 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 seek a refund.

In the first 6 months from the date of purchase, when you return the PC or printer to request a repair or replacement, you don't have to prove that it was faulty at the time of sale. There is an assumption that it 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 PC or printer was faulty at the time of sale.

After using the PC or printer more than a few times

If you've used the PC or printer more than a few times or had a reasonable opportunity to check it, you probably won't 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 the goods aren't restored to a satisfactory condition, you should be entitled to a partial refund (after reducing the price you paid to allow for the use you've had from the item).

If the PC or printer can't be repaired or replaced

If the PC or printer 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 it.

If a fault has caused additional expense

If anything else has been damaged you may be entitled to compensation over and above the price of the item.

If the seller denies responsibility

Often goods are sold with a guarantee from the manufacturer to fix any fault found with the goods within a certain period. This will only be the case as long as you tell the manufacturer about the defect within a certain date.

Sometimes the seller refers this guarantee to you and rejects any responsibility for faulty goods.

However, it's worth noting that the manufacturer's guarantee won't affect the buyer's right against the seller to claim a refund for the money paid for the goods (if the goods aren't of satisfactory quality and/or fit for their purpose). However, you must not delay in telling the seller of these defects.

If the seller tries to deny responsibility and tries to refer you to the manufacturer, you shouldn't accept this excuse.