We often purchase goods that do not come into our possession on the same day of the purchase, but an arrangement is made for them to be delivered to us on a specific date. This is usually the case when we make online purchases or when the goods are not currently in stock or are too bulky to transport in one’s private car. In such situations, we may encounter some problems until the goods ordered are finally in our possession, as agreed in the contract of sale.

One of the most common problems is non-delivery or late delivery of the goods ordered. If a period of time for delivery has been agreed upon and specified in the contract of sale, then it is the legal responsibility of the seller to observe it. In situations where no specific delivery date has been agreed upon, the Consumer Rights Regulations stipulate that goods must be supplied within 30 days from the date of order.

If the trader is unable to meet the agreed deadline or the 30 days stipulated by the law, then we need to write to the trader and request that the delivery of the ordered goods is made by a specific date. If the trader is unable to meet the new delivery date, then we may opt to cancel the sale and request a full refund of the deposit paid.

Another common problem related to ordered goods concerns damaged or wrong delivered goods. Should this happen to us we should be aware that if the delivery of the goods was part of the sales transaction, sellers are obliged to provide us with a remedy. This means that if the goods turn out to be damaged, the seller is obliged to replace them free of charge. If the trader is unable to replace the damaged goods, then we may cancel the order and ask for a money refund. The same applies if the goods get lost in transit.

Sellers are legally responsible to abide by the delivery date stipulated in the contract of sale

It is considered unfair to request consumers to sign that goods have been delivered in good condition when consumers do not have reasonable time to inspect the goods. On the other hand, we should always carefully examine the delivered goods and immediately notify the trader of any damages detected.

Most sellers grant a period of time during which consumers can inspect the delivered goods and report any detected damages. This time frame is normally written in the contract’s terms and conditions. While it is our responsibility to observe the date stipulated by the trader, the amount of time should be reasonable.

Unless the goods are bought online, off premises or through a distant means of communications, once a sales agreement is finalised we cannot simply change our mind and send the goods back to the seller.

Goods ordered through a distant means of communication or off premises can be returned to the supplier even if they are not damaged, as we have a 14-day cooling-off period during which we can change our mind and cancel the sale.

The only charge we may be requested to pay is the direct cost of returning the unwanted goods to the seller. However, we must be informed in writing about these costs in the terms and conditions of the sale. If we are not informed, then these costs must be paid by the seller. In case of goods that cannot be returned by normal post, such as bulky goods, the seller must inform us of the costs we will incur if we decide to return the goods during the cooling-off period.

Should we encounter difficultes related to ordered goods, we may seek the assistance of the Office for Consumer Affairs to acquire the necessary information on our rights and responsibilities.

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



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