Knowing your consumer rights when buying a sofa is essential, whether you’re planning to buy in-store or online. A sofa is probably one of the most expensive furniture items you’ll ever buy, and it’s often bought on finance. This can complicate return proceedings, especially when problems with the sofa don’t appear immediately.
Fortunately, consumers have more rights after buying a sofa than they may realise. We've spoken to consumer rights experts and furniture sellers to clarify a few important details around what to do if your sofa is faulty and/or you want to send it back.
What are my rights with a faulty sofa?
There are two main case scenarios where it comes to buying a sofa that turns out to be faulty. The first is where you receive a sofa that is obviously damaged or doesn’t function properly. In this case, you simply send it back to the retailer within the standard 30-day period which is part of your statutory rights under The Consumer Rights Act 2015. It doesn’t matter if the item was on sale – if it’s faulty, it’s faulty and you are entitled to send it back for a refund. Some retailers such as John Lewis even offer extended return policies.
The other, slightly more complex case scenario is where you bought a sofa, it was fine, but then it broke or wore out within the first few months, or first couple of years, of use. You are now outside of your standard returns fixed period, so what do you do?
Fortunately, despite what the retailer may try to tell you, you can still send the faulty sofa back. Under the Sale of Goods legislation, a retailer has a responsibility to provide you with goods of a certain standard of quality and durability. Money Saving Expert memorably calls these your ‘SAD FART’ rights: ‘Satisfactory quality, As Described, Fit for Purpose, and last a Reasonable length of Time.’
The difficulties begin in the interpretation of the words ‘satisfactory’ and ‘reasonable.’ Of course, if the foam cushion in the sofa has collapsed after two months’ use, it’s neither of satisfactory quality nor has lasted a reasonable length of time. Sorin Tutu, Managing Director of furniture retailer Casagoda says: ‘If you receive a sofa or any other piece of furniture and the craftsmanship is poor, you can still refer back to the retailer.’
Refund or repair? Know where you stand
Do bear in mind that the retailer has the right to take steps to repair the sofa before they take any further action to remedy the situation.
‘In some cases, the damage might be minor. In which case you should speak to the retailer and give them the opportunity to repair or replace the item. The retailer has to cover the costs of the repair (including collection and re-delivery) and do this in a reasonable space of time,' explains Sorin.
'If a repair cannot be done, or it has been poorly repaired, or if it has taken an unreasonable length of time, or if you have experienced significant inconvenience, you are then within your rights to request a replacement. If neither a repair or a replacement can be agreed, you can then ask the retailer for a discount if you’re happy to accept that or a full refund.’
If you are struggling with customer services remember that quoting the Consumer Rights Act 2015 ‘can make a powerful impression’, according to MSE. ‘Don't just quote the rights, say this… "according to the Consumer Rights Act 2015".
‘Often the retailer would be happy to accept a return and full refund so our advice is always to speak to the retailer armed with your consumer rights to make sure you’re getting value for money,’ agrees Sorin.
Also, time is of the essence in these case, you have a much better chance of getting a sofa repaired or replaced if you act quickly and contact your retailer within the first six months of purchase. Katie Watts, the consumer expert at MoneySavingExpert, explains, 'if you discover a fault within the first six months, it’s up to the retailer to prove the fault wasn’t there when it was delivered – it’s not up to you to prove it was. But after six months, that burden of proof falls on you – and this may require an expert report or opinion – so it’s best to act quickly if something isn’t right.'
If nothing has worked, you can try to take your case to the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman. However, the company you bought the sofa from needs to be registered with the organisation in order for them to be able to help you.
Do bear in mind that there is also the Limitation Act where you can only make a complaint about a faulty product within six years of buying it (five years if you’re in Scotland).
Can I return a sofa if it's not comfortable?
Yes, if you bought it online. Buying a sofa online gives you the right to reject it within 14 days for whatever reason, not just because it’s faulty – and then another 14 days to send it back after informing the seller you don’t want it.
Buying online definitely has advantages over buying in store, especially if you’re not sure whether the item will look good as part of your home decor. Buying in-store doesn’t come with this 14-day rule (called the cooling-off period), although the ability to test out the sofa should eliminate most of the reasons why sofas bought online are sent back. However, you might want to make sure you go in-store with a clear picture of the living room ideas the sofa needs to fit in with.
However, if you are buying online, make sure you keep any packaging that came with the sofa, as some retailers may deduct the missing packaging from your refund. Also, not all companies offer free returns on sofas that aren’t faulty, so you may have to pay for it to be collected.
How long is a sofa guaranteed for?
There is no standard warranty time period for sofas, and sofa warranties vary widely in terms of what they include. Some warranties are actually more generous than the Consumer Rights Act rights, so if you bought a sofa that has a five-year warranty that includes the frame, the interior, upholstery, stitching, and any mechanical parts, e.g. springs, then you’re in luck. It should be easy to arrange a repair or replacement with the retailer even if the fault has appeared after a whole year of using the sofa.
However, watch out for ‘frame only’ guarantees. They are typically very long – 10, 15, or even 20 years, but most issues people experience are not with the sofa frame. Some retailers will give you the option to purchase additional cover, usually, for the upholstery. This is well worth doing because the upholstery is likely to be the first element of the sofa that suffers. Some companies also offer accidental damage cover for your sofa. To help your sofa to last longer take a look at our how to clean upholstery guide.
Can I return a bespoke/custom-made sofa?
Generally speaking, you can only return bespoke or custom-made furniture if it is faulty. If you’ve received a custom-made sofa and want to return it for other reasons, you don’t have the benefit of the 14-day cooling-off period. It’s still worth contacting the retailer to see if they’ll have the sofa back, but they are under no obligation to.
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Anna Cottrell is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.
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