"Is it a legal requirement for me to issue a purchase receipt for all goods regardless of their value to the customer?" asks Mukesh Patel via fax. He runs Albany News in north London's Enfield and he is talking stuff like newspapers and chewing gum. I was guessing that some smart-ass customer was winding him up - but actually, no, he was merely keen to know.
I assumed that anyone asking for a receipt is probably entitled to one but I didn't really know, so I tried reading the Sale of Goods Act 1979 - because you never know where some archaic little rule might pop up, like no receipts necessary for purchases under one shilling and that type of thing.
Although amended in 1994, the Sale of Goods Act does still throw up some priceless, although incomprehensible, gems. There, for example, in among such headings as 'Innocent Misrepresentation' and the 'Buyer's Rights to Quiet Possession', was a piece referencing Section 3 and entitled 'Capacity to Buy and Sell'. This states: "This is regulated by the general law concerning capacity to contract and to transfer and acquire property (provided that where necessaries are sold and delivered to a minor, a lunatic or a drunkard he must pay a reasonable price)." Hoo, awfully politically correct or what?
As I was obviously none the wiser after my reading fest, I rang the
press office at the Trading Standards Institute.
Offhand, they didn't know either, but they promised to look into it and let me know. Unfortunately, they have been offhand about that, too - two weeks later and still no response.
So I went surfing, as you do when stuck for an answer. And lo and behold, on the Department for Business, Employment and Regulatory Reform website, I found the following under a FAQs list on 'Sale of Goods'. The questions clearly have the customer in mind.
Q7. Do I have to produce a receipt to claim my rights?
No. In fact, the trader doesn't have to give you a receipt in the first place so it would be unfair to say that you had to produce one. However, it might not be unreasonable for the shop to want some proof of purchase, so look to see if you have a cheque stub, bank statement, credit card slip etc, and this should be sufficient.
Q8. Can I claim a refund on sale items?
It depends on why you want to return them. The Sale of Goods Act still applies, but you are not entitled to a refund if you were told of the faults before purchase, or if the fault should have been obvious to you. Also, you are not entitled to a refund if you simply change your mind about liking the goods.
Question eight has nothing to do with receipts, but I include it because the last time I had a query of this nature it had to do with a customer regularly returning little trinkets she had picked up at the checkout and then changing her mind.