Although the big companies might not always appear to recognise it, consumers in the UK have certain rights when they purchase products.
Under the law, Brits have a right to expect the product they buy to be of a satisfactory quality with no defects, fit for purpose and to be sold as it was described.
If this is not the case, then they are entitled to have it repaired, replaced or have the cost refunded, and in the event that this defective product causes damage to them or their property, they are entitled to compensation too.
Introduced in 1987, the Consumer Protection Act holds the producer liable for any damage caused wholly or partly by a defect in a product. This damage does not just cover physical damage to property, but also death or personal industry.
For the purposes of the legislation, the definition of a producer also covers those who have put their name or trademark on the product.
Under the act, a defect is considered to exist “if the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect”.
However, there are certain factors which must be taken into account in relation to this, such as the way in which the product was marketed and any warnings which were included. There are also time limits placed on when a claim can be made – no more than three years after the product was bought.
The act also covers instances where a hazard has been found, but no effort to recall the defective products was made.
And there are numerous real life examples of where this law has led to people being able to receive the compensation they deserve after receiving an injury which simply wasn’t their fault.
Some of the most high profile of these cases are those relating to toxic sofas, which left owners with severe burns.
Up to 100,000 of the products from Chinese manufacturers Linkwise and Eurosofa had been coated with the chemical dimethyl fumarate, which was intended to stop them going mouldy while in storage.
A number of these were then sold by Argos, Walmsley, Homebase and Land of Leather to UK customers. Once in their homes, the chemical burned people through their clothes, and also caused breathing difficulties and eye problems.
As many as 2,000 people were affected by the burns, with some of the victims as young as nine months old.
Commenting on the case, solicitor Richard Langton said: “People’s lives were put on hold. Some people thought that they were dying, that they had skin cancer.
“Their doctors couldn’t tell them what was wrong, [there were] a lot of psychological symptoms.”
Following a High Court deal, a settlement was reached which saw many of the victims receive a share of £20 million in compensation. Some received up to £9,000, while others were also granted expenses for loss of earnings and cancellation of events such as weddings and holidays.
The payment was reached following the creation of a claims handling agreement, which was intended to ensure hundreds of people received swift access to the compensation they deserved.
A case involving so many victims and such a large number of big names is rare but serves to demonstrate how effective the legislation in place can be for those suffering as a result of a product defect.
It also serves to show how important it is that Brits are clued up on their rights, so that they know they have somewhere to turn if they find themselves in a similar situation.
The information provided is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. If you require advice on whether you can claim compensation for a faulty or defective product, please contact our specialist product liability claim team on our Freephone 0800 1077 321 or by completing the on-line claim form.