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The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982

Brief Background

The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 is an Act that ensures that traders provide services to an adequate standard of workmanship and is applicable to contracts entered into before 1 October 2015, in the United Kingdom. It is important to note that this Act has been outdated since the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which was a landmark piece of legislation in the area of consumer law and governs contracts that have been entered into since its inception. However, the Supply of Good and Services Act 1982 still applies to contractual agreements that were constructed before the inception of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Why was it introduced?

The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 was an early attempt to provide consumers greater protection when they purchased a good or service to ensure that consumers received a product of reasonable quality or received a service that was carried out with reasonable skill and attention. The rights provided for by the Act could not be excluded from any contractual agreement which gave consumers a heightened level of protection compared to previous pieces of legislation in this area.

What was the aim of the Act?

The aim of the Act was to protect consumers from poor provision of services, faulty goods or bad workmanship that may have been provided by the supplier. The Act applied to all business relationships where goods or services were provided. This did not merely include written contracts but also in circumstances where a service is agreed with payment to follow (such as a hairdresser for example).

What main changes did it make to the law?

Specifically, the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, states that service providers are required to provide their goods or services with reasonable care and skill, at a reasonable price and within a reasonable time frame where a fixed date had not been previously agreed between the parties. Further to this, goods that were provided had to be of satisfactory quality, as described, and fit for purpose. This was a similar to requirement to that found in the Sale of Goods Act 1979, but it has also been slightly adapted and later employed by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Act also held that if these terms were breached by a service or goods provider, this would be considered to be a breach of contract and this would subsequently provide the consumer with the opportunity to seek relief from the contract, either by way of termination or by way of damages, through the courts.

However, there were challenges that the Act created which led to it being replaced by the Consumer Rights Act 1998. The main issue was the fact that the Act held that reasonableness was a ‘question of fact’ (section 14(2), section 15(2)). However, without clear definition, this led to several difficulties in establishing the facts of the case and subsequently which party was at fault under those circumstances. If an individual wanted to establish this ‘fact’, they would be required to hire an expert to comment on the product or service, or to call the manufacturer or another individual in the trade to determine how appropriate the service had been. Hiring an expert, or even prolonged communication with the manufacturer can be a costly process and this was a potential bar to establishing a case. Moreover, it was also probable that the provider could also make a case to how reasonable the service or goods were as a defence, by attaining the help of someone else in his/her trade to state that they would have acted in the same manner as the provider.

Key Sections

The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, Part I lists a number of implied terms that fall under the Act and therefore apply to the supply of goods between consumer and provider. These implied terms encompass title (Part 1, section 2) and terms regarding quality or fitness (Part I, section 3). Parties cannot contract out of this Act and therefore such terms will apply to the relevant contracts under the Act. This includes matters such as the quality and fitness of the product as well as the transfer of title.

Part II of the Act refers to the supply of services and also lists a number of implied terms. These are in relation to the requirement that the service is carried out with reasonable care and skill (Part II, section 13) and performance of the service (Part II, section 14)

Interestingly, Part III, section 18 of the Act, deals with interpretations of some of the provisions listed under the Act. This includes important and relevant terms such as ‘business’ and ‘goods’, but importantly fails to mention ‘reasonableness’ as previously mentioned.


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