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Delivery of goods – what does the law say?

When consumers do not collect purchases straight away, the Consumer Rights Regulations stipulates a time frame by when the goods ordered have to be delivered. Suppliers have 30 days from the date of the sales contract to deliver the goods unless a different delivery date has been agreed between consumer and trader.

If the seller does not meet the 30-day deadline or the agreed delivery date, consumers must write to the trader and request that the goods ordered are delivered to them by a specific reasonable date. If the seller is unable to meet this date, consumers have the possibility to cancel the sale and request a refund of the deposit paid.

When a delivery date is clearly stipulated on the contract of sale and the contract states that the date is essential, then consumers are not obliged to give the trader an extension. This is also the case when the trader makes it clear that he is refusing to deliver the ordered goods. These requirements apply to both goods ordered through a distant means of communication, such as online, and also to goods bought from a shop on the high street.

Delayed deliveries are not the only problems consumers may encounter when they order goods. Another possible problem is the loss of goods. This is especially the case when goods are ordered online. If delivery was part and parcel of the contract of sale, then the seller is responsible for the lost items.

Upon receiving goods, consumers should examine them for defects

It is important that consumers inform the trader that the goods were not received according to the agreed delivery date. If the goods are not found then consumers are entitled to have the goods replaced or to a refund.

Consumers may also claim a remedy when the goods ordered turn out to be damaged or different to what was originally agreed with the seller. If the seller was responsible for delivery and the goods are damaged in transit, the supplier is liable to provide a free remedy.

Upon receiving goods, consumers should examine them for any defects. Any detected damages must be immediately reported to the seller. This is especially so if the seller has given the consumers a time frame by when to report apparent defects or damages. This deadline is usually written in the contract of sale. While it is the consumer’s responsibility to observe this time period, the amount of time stipulated by the seller should be reasonable.

Unless the goods delivered are bought through a distant means of communication or off premises, once the goods are delivered consumers cannot change their mind and choose to send the goods back to the seller. However, if in the long run the goods turn out to be defective, consumers can still complain with the trader  in line with the legal guarantee.

In case of distance and off-premises sales a 14-day cooling-off period applies. During this period of time consumers can change their mind, cancel the sale, return the goods and ask for a full refund of money paid.

Consumers may, however, be asked to pay the cost of returning the unwanted goods. When this is the case, the seller is obliged to inform the consumer about the costs before the sales contract is concluded. If this information is not provided, then it is the seller who must cover the cost of having the unwanted goods returned.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

[email protected]

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