The Sheriff Appeal Court has recently delivered an interesting opinion on the rights of a consumer to reject goods after purchase and delivery. The Claimants bought a custom made sofa suite from the Respondents but upon delivery felt that it was not of satisfactory quality. The following day the Claimants attended at the Defender’s showroom to complain and intimate rejection. They followed this up with telephone calls and no less than eight letters intimating rejection and seeking repayment. Event he Pursuer’s MP got involved. The Respondents declined to engage with the Claimants. Eventually court proceedings were raised and the Claimants received an order for payment. Believing the matter to be at an end, and no longer able to store the unused suite, the Claimants then gave it away. The Defender’s then then recalled the order and sought to appeal the decision of the Sheriff at first instance.
The Respondents (or Appellants) argument was that the Claimants were not entitled to recover the sum awarded as they could no longer return the suite; they should have been retained in a neural place where they acted as custodians only. This was their legal duty whether they knew it or not and there was no time limit applicable.
The Sheriff Appeal Court rejected this argument. It was held that when a consumer exercises a right to reject faulty goods, there is no duty to return the goods to the seller. All the consumer needs to do is make the goods available to the seller. That imposes an onus on the seller to arrange to collect the goods if they so wish. The Sheriff Appeal Court outlined a number of factors that should be taken into account when considering the nature and extent of the duty to retain goods which have been rejected: –
- the timescales within which rejection was intimated;
- the nature of the goods;
- the practicality of providing storage;
- the nature, extend and frequency of communications sent by the consumers to the seller;
- any response, or lack of response from the sellers
- the length of time for which goods were retained; and
- Whether proceedings have been raised.
It may be appropriate in some cases for the consumer to intimate that in the absence of removal, the goods will otherwise be disposed of but equally circumstances may arise in which the actings (or inaction) of the seller entitled the consumer to do as he or she wishes (as was the situation in this case).