Problems with goods

The advice sheets below have the lastest information on problems with goods. If you need more advice, please call the Citizen Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

One day sales: what you should know

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

You should be very wary of buying goods at one-day sales.

When you buy goods from a trader you are making a legally binding contract, which is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This law gives you rights and remedies against the trader if the goods fail to meet your expectations, possibly because they are faulty. 

If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress.

What is a one-day sale?

One-day sales are events, usually held in venues that have been booked for the day, where goods are offered for sale by traders at bargain prices. Some may be genuine but most are not. They are often run by slick, well-practised traders and a team of assistants who are expert in taking advantage of buyers' love of a bargain.

Typically, traders are not local. They will hire a venue such as a church hall or hotel or take a short-term lease on an empty shop in order to hold the sale.

Some people are tempted to attend a sale by the lure of huge discounts on brand-name goods, often electrical goods advertised on leaflets distributed only a few days before the sale, or even on the day of the sale itself. Traders may advertise online or take out advertisements in local newspapers, possibly describing the event as a bankrupt-stock sale or a warehouse clearance sale.

The trader's assistants may begin the process of whipping up excitement for the sale even before it has commenced by 'working' the queue of people waiting to enter the saleroom, chatting to them and building up the anticipation.

The trader usually conducts the sale from behind an elevated counter and invariably the goods are hidden from view so as not to allow the crowd to see beforehand what they are buying. Sometimes the potential buyers will pay to be 'locked' into the saleroom, fully expecting that only they will be the lucky recipients of a bargain. The trader may give 'sweetener' goods away or sell them at very low prices. This process is designed to heighten the anticipation of the crowd and prime them for the commencement of the actual sale.

A common practice is for the trader to use his assistants to pose as customers to mingle with the unsuspecting audience and then 'sell' genuine goods to them to reinforce the illusion that there are bargains to be had.

The buyers are given their 'bargains', which may be well packaged to deter close and immediate inspection. They invariably turn out to be shoddy, inferior or counterfeit goods or even empty boxes and certainly not the top brand bargains that the buyers were hoping for. The buyers are usually ushered out of the saleroom and not allowed back in.

What are my rights when buying at a one-day sale?

It is an important element of a contract that a trader must give you specific pre-contract information as set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. The 'Buying from business premises - on-premises contracts explained' and the 'Buying at home - off-premises contracts explained' guides explain what these pre-contract requirements are. If a trader does not provide the required information, you can make a claim to have your costs (if you have any) reimbursed.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out what you are entitled to expect from goods supplied by a trader. These are commonly referred to as your 'statutory rights'. The law also gives you remedies against a trader if they fail to meet your expectations. 

Key rights:

  • the trader must have the right to supply the goods to you. For example, they do not actually own them and cannot therefore sell them to you
  • the goods must be of satisfactory quality. The description, price, condition of the goods, fitness for purpose, appearance and finish, safety, durability and freedom from minor defects are all important factors when considering quality. Public statements, such as those in advertising or on labelling, made by the trader, the producer or their representative about the goods, must be accurate and can also be taken into account when deciding if they are of satisfactory quality
  • if you make a trader aware that you want the goods to be fit for a particular purpose - even if it is something that they are not usually supplied for - then you have the right to expect they are fit for that purpose
  • you have the right to expect that the goods are as described
  • if you see or examine a sample, then the goods must match the sample
  • if you see or examine a model, then the goods must match the model                

Key remedies:

  • short term right to reject the goods and obtain a full refund
  • right to a repair or replacement
  • right to a price reduction or a final right to reject the goods

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 does not entitle you to anything if:

  • you were told of any faults before you bought the goods
  • the fault was obvious and it would have been reasonable to have noticed it on examination before buying the goods
  • you caused any damage yourself
  • you made a mistake, for example you ordered the wrong colour
  • you have changed your mind about the goods or seen them cheaper elsewhere

The 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' guide gives more information on your rights and which remedy you are entitled to.

Traders who operate one-day sales may be trading 'on premises', which means the venue is considered to be their business premises for the purpose of the sale and the trader must therefore comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 when they sell goods to you. They must get your clear agreement if they want to charge you for 'extras'. Telephone helplines must only be charged at the basic rate. There are rules on delivery of goods and the point at which you become responsible for them. The 'Buying from business premises - on-premises contracts explained' guide gives more information.

If the trader organises a one-day sale as an excursion away from his usual business premises this is called trading 'off premises'. The regulations above also apply to contracts made 'off premises' but you also have cancellation rights and the cancellation period is 14 days. See our guide 'Buying at home - off-premises contracts explained' for more information. 

Under the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, traders are banned from charging excessive fees to consumers for using payment methods such as credit and debit cards. The fees charged must reflect the actual cost to the trader of using that particular payment process. The Regulations apply to most sales contracts. A contract term relating to the requirement to pay a fee is unenforceable against you to the extent of the excess charged. If you have paid an excessive fee, the excess must be repaid to you. If you believe a trader's fees are excessive report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.

It may be virtually impossible for you to exercise your rights after you have bought from a one-day sale, unless it is a genuine one. A disreputable trader and his team will have packed up and gone and be extremely difficult to trace.

The goods are faulty but I cannot trace the trader - what can I do?

If you pay for the goods by credit card and if they cost more than £100 but less than £30,000 you are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the card provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or a misrepresentation. You are entitled to take action against the trader, the card provider or both. This does not apply to charge cards or debit cards.

If you use a debit card to purchase the goods or if you use a credit card and the price of the goods is less that £100 (your rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 would not apply), you may be able to take advantage of the chargeback scheme. Chargeback is the term used by card providers for reclaiming a card payment from the trader's bank. If you can evidence a breach of contract - the goods are faulty or you cannot trace the trader for example - you can ask your card provider to attempt to recover the payment. Check with your card provider as to how the scheme rules apply to your card and what the time limit is for making a claim.

The venue owners have a contract with the trader for the booking of the venue only. The venue owners are not liable to you for the goods that you were sold. They may have contact details for the trader, although you should bear in mind that they may have been victims as well. It is not uncommon for the venue to be supplied with bogus details and not receive payment for the booking.

How can I avoid being ripped off?

  • check the advertisement or leaflet. Ask yourself who is holding the sale and whether you have heard of them. Make sure you have a genuine address where you can contact the trader if you need to
  • why are the goods so cheap? Always check beforehand to make sure the goods you intend to buy are the top brands you are expecting them to be. They may be cheap and shoddy inferior products
  • it is always good practice to shop around to see if the bargain is as good as it sounds
  • ask the trader or the assistants why the goods advertised in the leaflet are not on display. Never buy goods you have not seen. If the trader is unhelpful take it as a warning that something is not quite right
  • don't get caught up in the buying frenzy - keep your wits about you and listen to what the trader is actually saying
  • don't assume that the goods are in working order, try and check them as soon as possible
  • ultimately you should consider not going to the sale

I've been ripped off - what can I do?

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibits commercial practices that are unfair to consumers. If a trader misleads you (for example, claiming goods are made by a particular designer when they are fake), engages in an aggressive commercial practice such as using heavy-handed security staff or engages in a trading practice that is banned under the Regulations, they may have committed an offence.

If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. These rights are in addition to the rights you already have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices - your right to redress' guide gives more information.

If you attended a one-day sale and the goods you bought are faulty, not fit for a particular purpose, not as described or you think you have been ripped off or defrauded, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: May 2016

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.