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Legal requirements for traders are there to protect consumers and with several stories in the press at the moment it is a good time for a quick review of them.

Rules and regulations

There are four acts that you need to be aware of and understand: (1) Sale of Goods Act 1979; (2) Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982; (3) Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Sale; and (4) Supply of Goods to Consumer Regulations 2002.

And, if you are selling items via the internet or mail order, for example, then you should also familiarise yourself with the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000. Together, these acts offer consumer protection in excess of EU law, but according to Trading Standards, UK law takes precedent.

The Acts state that goods must ‘conform to contract’ – this means they must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. Or, to put it another way, reach the standard a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, having taken into account the price and any description. Goods must be free from minor defects and this includes the appearance and finish. Goods must also be durable and safe.

Should the goods not conform to contract at the time of sale then it is important to remember that it is the seller, not the manufacturer, who is responsible for the goods. This means that you as the seller may have refunded the consumer in full (or in part, depending on use and abuse) within a reasonable time.

Goods must last a reasonable period of time. Depending on the item, this could be up to six years. Should you sell an item that produces a fault within six months it is deemed faulty from new. (Unless you can prove otherwise.) After six months it is up to the customer to prove it was faulty from new.

This has been a brief introduction so talk to your local Trading Standards who can give you advice pertinent to your business.

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