If you are in the business of selling to the general public or to traders, it is important to be aware of the rules concerning the goods that you supply.
Where goods are sold in the course of a business, the law implies a term into the contract that they are of ‘satisfactory quality’ and must be of ‘a standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory’. There are various factors that the courts will take into account:
# Fitness for all purposes for which the goods in kind are commonly supplied
# Freedom from minor defects
If you are dealing with a consumer rather than a trade buyer, the court will also take into account public statements on the specific characteristics of the goods made by the seller, the producer or his representative, particularly in any advertising or labelling. The fact that all care was taken is no defence to a claim.
There is some respite, however, in that this law does not apply where the matter has been drawn to the buyer’s attention before the contract is made, or where the buyer examines the goods beforehand.
Similarly, where you sell goods in the course of a business, and the buyer expressly or by implication makes known to you any particular purpose for which the goods are being bought, there is an implied term that the goods supplied are reasonably fit for that purpose.
It is important to note that whether or not that is a purpose for which such goods are commonly supplied does not matter, except where the circumstances show that the buyer does not rely (or that it is unreasonable for him to rely) on your skill or judgment.
Again, it is no defence to a claim to show that all care was taken. If you breach either of these terms, the buyer can reject the goods, treat the contract as at an end and sue for any losses suffered as a result.
Moving away from the quality of the goods, where you have a contract for sale of goods by description, a term is implied that the ‘goods will correspond with that description’.
The test to see if goods correspond with the description is a strict one. If any written contract specifies conditions of weight, measurement and the like, those must be complied with. Again, if you fail to do so, the buyer can reject the goods, treat the contract as at an end and recover damages for the losses sustained as a result.
Where you sell to consumers, they have further protection. In particular, where goods do not conform to the contract for sale at the time of delivery, the buyer has the right to require you to repair or replace the goods, or to reduce the purchase price by an appropriate amount or to cancel the contract.
If the buyer requires you to repair or replace the goods, you must do so within a reasonable time but without causing significant inconvenience to the buyer. You must also bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so. The buyer cannot, however, require you to repair or replace the goods if that remedy is impossible or disproportionate in comparison to any other remedies they have.
If a consumer does not demand repair or replacement in circumstances where it would be appropriate, they lose the right to proceed to the other remedies of price reduction or cancellation.
Overall, the message is clear. The law provides protection to those who buy goods or products either in the course of business or as consumers. In a majority of cases, the duties on suppliers of products are strict ones and so complete compliance with the law is essential.