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Statutory implied terms - The Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
 

 
Intro

In contracts for the sale of goods and supply of services certain basic provisions are implied by statute in order to provide protection to purchasers. The main provisions derive from the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. The Sale of Goods Act protects purchasers where the seller does not have the right to sell the goods (s.12). Where the goods are sold by description there is an implied term that the goods will correspond to that description (s.13). Businesses must ensure that the goods they sell are of satisfactory quality and fit for their purpose (s.14). Where the goods are sold by sample there is an implied term that the goods will correspond to the sample in quality (s.15). Where the goods are supplied along with a service then the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 applies. This implies the identical provisions as the Sale of Goods Act in relation to the goods supplied. In addition there are implied terms that the service must be carried out with reasonable care and skill (s.13), that the service will be carried out within a reasonable time (s.14) and where no price is agreed a reasonable price will be paid (s.15).
 
 
 
 
 
 
Summary


The Sale of Goods Act 1979 provides four main protections for buyers:

1. The seller must have the right to sell the goods ( S.12)

2. Goods sold by description must correspond to the description (S.13)

3. Goods must be of satisfactory quality (s.14)

4. Goods sold by sample, the goods must correspond to the sample in quality (s.15)
 

The Sale of Goods Act applies to all contracts for the sale of goods, however, s.14 is more limited in its scope in that it only applies where goods are sold in the course of a business. Also where the goods are sold in the course of a business the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act are reinforced with the protection offered by the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 which prohibits their exclusion. See further here.


These protections are in the form of statutory implied terms. This means that the Sale of Goods Act will put these terms into all contracts for the sale of goods no matter what the parties themselves have agreed in the terms and conditions of sale. A contract is for the sale of goods provided it is a contract to transfer ownership of goods (as opposed to a hire agreement) and the goods are exchanged for money. This excludes contracts of barter unless money is also given.


 
 
The main provisions


1. S. 12 implied terms as to title


S. 12 applies to all contracts for sale of goods so it will cover private sales in addition to where goods have been purchased from a shop or other business.

S.12(1) implies a term that the seller has the right to sell the goods. This covers situations where the seller is selling stolen goods (whether the actual thief or a subsequent sale in the chain). This term is a condition in all sales.

A buyer who treats the contract as repudiated is entitled to return of the full purchase price even if they have enjoyed use of the goods for some time.


Rowland v Divall
[1923] 2 KB 500       (Case summary)
 

 
In addition to applying to stolen goods s.12(1) also applies where the seller does not have the right to sell the goods where to do so would be breach of trademark, patent or copyright:
 
 

Niblett v Confectioners' Material
[1921] 3 KB 387
                                                     (Case summary)


s.12(2) (a) implies a term that the goods are free from any undisclosed charge or encumbrance. This applies where for example goods which are still subject to hp terms have been sold without telling the purchaser of the hp agreement or where any other debt has been secured on the goods. This term is only a warranty so whilst the purchaser can claim for any loss caused by the charge or encumbrance they can not end the contract.


S.12 (2)(b) implies a term that the purchaser will enjoy quiet possession of the goods. This acts as an ongoing assurance that no one will interfere with the buyer’s right to possess or use the goods. This term is a warranty.
 


Microbeads v Vinehurst Road Markings [1975] 1 WLR    
                                                              (Case summary)
 

2. S.13 sale by description
 

s.13(1) provides that where there is a contract for the sale of goods by description, there is an implied term that the goods will correspond with the description.

This section applies where the sale is solely by description. If the buyer sees the actual goods before the sale then s.13 can not be relied upon:

Harlington & Leinster v Christopher Hull Fine Art [1991] 1 QB 564 
(Case summary)


S.13 is simply concerned with description and not quality as was made clear in:
 

 

Arcos v Ranaason [1933] AC 470                 (Case summary)



Re Moore & Landauer [1921] 2 KB 519         (Case summary)

 

The term implied by s.13 is a condition in relation to consumer sales but an innominate term in relation to non-consumer sales.
 


3. S. 14 Implied term as to quality


S.14 only applies where the seller sells goods in the course of a business. It therefore does not apply to private sales although there may be an action for breach of an express term or misrepresentation in some circumstances.


The question of whether goods were sold in the course of a business was considered in:


Stevenson v Rogers [1999] 1 All ER 613          (Case summary)

 
Liability under s.14 is strict and not dependant of proof of fault on the part of the seller.
 
The relevant parts of s.14 are as follows:

(2) Where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, there is an implied term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality.
 
 
(2A) For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.

(2B) For the purposes of this Act, the quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—

(a) fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied,
(b) appearance and finish,
(c) freedom from minor defects,
(d) safety, and
(e) durability.


Applying this section a judge would thus consider whether a reasonable person would regard the goods as of satisfactory quality looking at the stated aspects in addition to all other relevant circumstances. Looking at fitness for purpose, the judge, will consider whether the goods are fit for the purpose the goods are commonly supplied so for example if you purchase a hairdryer and use it to dry your clothes, the judge is unlikely to conclude there has been a breach as the goods were not used for their common purpose. Conversely if you purchase a pair of shoes which fall apart after a few days wear, the seller cannot simply state they were fashion shoes and not intended for wearing full time.

In addition to the statutory guidance a court applies the acceptability and usability tests to help determine if the goods in question are of satisfactory quality.
 

The Acceptability Test – Applies to consumer transactions

The acceptability test looks at whether a reasonable purchaser would have accepted the goods at the same price had they known of the defect:


Shine v General Guarantee Corp
[1988] 1 All ER 911  
(Case summary)


The Usability Test – Applies to business to business transactions

The usability test is less generous than the acceptability test. This test requires the court to consider if a reasonable purchaser could have used the goods for purposes for which the goods were commonly supplied:

Aswan Engineering v Lupdine
[1987] 1 All ER 135             
(Case summary)


S.14 (2C) provides certain limitations to the application of s.14(2) as follows:


(2C) The term implied by subsection (2) above does not extend to any matter making the quality of goods unsatisfactory—

(a) which is specifically drawn to the buyer's attention before the contract is made:
 
 
 
Bartlett v Sidney Marcus ltd [1965] 1 WLR 1013 (Case summary)
 
 
 
(b) where the buyer examines the goods before the contract is made, which that examination ought to reveal, or

(c) in the case of a contract for sale by sample, which would have been apparent on a reasonable examination of the sample.

S14 is a condition in a consumer sale and an innominate term in a non-consumer sale
 
 
 
4. S.15 Sale by Sample

  S.15 applies to all sales by sample irrespective of whether it is a private sale, consumer sale or business to business sale.

 
S.15 (2) provides that in a contract for sale by sample there is an implied term-
 
(a) that the bulk will correspond with the sample in quality;

(b) that the goods will be free from any defect, making their quality unsatisfactory, which would not be apparent on reasonable examination of the sample.
 

Note that s.15 only relates to quality and not to other matters such as colour. S.15 is a condition in a consumer sale and an innominate term in non- consumer sales.



Additional remedies for consumer sales
 
 
 

Consumers are afforded additional remedies under part 5A SGA 1979 where the goods do not conform to the contract of sale at the time of delivery or for up to 6 months after delivery.

S.61
 Sale of Goods Act states that the meaning of consumer for the purposes of part 5A is taken from the definition given in s.12(1) UCTA. Thus a person deals as a consumer if they do not make the contract in the course of a business where the other person does. A Business can also be treated as a consumer if it is purchasing goods which are ordinarily supplied for private use or consumption.

 

1. S.48B (1) Repair or replacement


S.48B provides that the buyer can require the seller to repair or replace the goods at the seller's expense. The seller is required to do so within a reasonable time. If the buyer makes this request they lose the right to reject the goods unless the seller does not comply within a reasonable time. The seller need not repair or replace the goods where this would be impossible or disproportionate to do so.

 
2. S48C(1) Reduction of price

The seller may be required to reduce the purchase price under s.48 C (1) where the seller has not complied with a request from the buyer to repair or replace because it would be disproportionate to do so. This is a secondary remedy and can not be requested without the buyer first making a request for repair or replacement which has not been fulfilled.

 
3. S. 48C (2) Rescission of the contract

This is another secondary remedy available only where a request for repair or replace has not been complied with. Rescission is putting the parties back in their pre –contractual position ie the buyer gives back the goods and the seller gives back the purchase price. However, the seller can deduct from the purchase price any value for the use the buyer may have had of the goods.

 
 

 
Where goods are supplied in addition to services, eg the installing of a new boiler, or the fitting of new engine parts in a car, the goods are covered by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982) (SGSA) rather than the Sale of goods Act. The SGSA is divided into two parts Part 1 covers the supply of goods and part 2 covers the supply of services. Part 1 covers contracts which transfer property in goods and hire contracts. Part 1B provides additional remedies for consumers.
 
 
Part 1 Supply of goods

S.1 Defines contracts which transfer property in goods and excludes the following type of contracts:
(a) contracts for the Sale of goods: (Covered by Sale of Goods Act)
(b) contracts for hire purchase;
(c) contracts involving trading stamps
(d) contracts made by deed where there is no consideration
(e) a contract intended to operate by way of mortgage, pledge or charge

Sections 2-5 replicate the provisions in the Sale of Goods Act sections 12-15 in relation to
title, description, satisfactory quality and sample.
 

S. 5A provides that in non-consumer sales the terms implied by sections 2-5 are innominate terms
 

S. 6 defines a contract for the hire of goods and excludes contracts of hire purchase and contracts using trading stamps.
 

Sections 7-10 again replicate sections 12-15 of the Sale of Goods Act in relation to title description, satisfactory quality and sample.
 
 
 
Part 1B

Part 1b S.11 provides additional remedies for consumers which replicate those in s 48 of the Sale of Goods Act in relation to repair or replace, reduction in price and rescission.

Part 2 Supply of services


S.12 SGSA
 defines contracts for the supply of services. It excludes contracts of apprenticeships, but includes any agreement for the supply of services irrespective of whether goods are also supplied. There is no requirement for money consideration.
 

S. 13 SGSA implies a term where the supplier acts in the course of a business, that the services will be carried out with reasonable care and skill.
 

s.14 SGSA implies a term where the service is carried out in the course of a business and no time is specified, that the service will be carried out within a reasonable time. What is considered a reasonable time is a question of fact and will depend on the circumstances.
 

S.15 SGSA where a service is carried out and no price has been agreed there is an implied term that a reasonable charge is payable. This is not limited to services supplied in the course of a business. What is a reasonable charge is a question of fact to be determined in the circumstances.
 
 
 
Further reading:
 
Law Commission Consultation Paper 188 Consumer Remedies for Faulty Goods Nov 2008
 
Office of Fair Trading response to consultation, Consumer Remedies for Faulty Goods, February 2009

 
  Sale of Goods Act 1979  Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982