Taking products back to exchange when faulty is a very normal part of any retail business. Recently some customers have been finding that a large number of receipts for goods that they have bought are fading fast and present issues when proving their purchase for return. What does this possibly mean for those who purchased potentially harmful/dangerous goods?
A quick sample of how receipt printers work
Why do receipts fade?
Historically, receipts have been printed using one of two methods. The first method is a traditional ink printer which fades over time, but placed away from sunlight in a cool environment such as a tin, will last long enough usually to cover a product’s warrantee. The second method (and the one which is most popular by retailers of all descriptions) is the use of thermal paper, which is printed via an infra red scanner that burns the receipt onto the paper. The paper itself is very thin and turns to white (even when kept out of sunlight) after a few months. The reason that this method is the most popular is that it is fast and very cheap compared to ink.
While any returns usually happen within the first two weeks, largely because most retailers’ returns policies allow any item to be returned unused for a period of their choosing (usually 2 weeks), it can create problems when an item is under warrantee but contains a fault (particularly electrical items).
Product Liability & You
Under UK law, any product which causes harm as a result of poor design or negligence from the manufacturer in informing you on how to safely use their product (by creating documents such as manuals), means that you can make a claim against a manufacturer for a product. The problem for UK consumers lies within the warrantee period of a product and the ability to return it when a receipt has faded.
Often electrical products will have a warrantee lasting between 12 to 36 months. In that time any fault detected which could cause harm is under warrantee and can be exchanged for a safer, new product. If, however, a receipt used to buy the product has faded due to the short shelf life of thermal printed receipts, this could create a big headache for the consumer. Should you be given a printed receipt for any product that could develop a fault, there are ways to ensure you’re purchase is recorded:
- Take a picture: Pictures of original documents are acceptable if legal action is required as it stands. Using a phone camera or apps which are designed to mimic receipts when pictures are an easy way to record the transaction so long as the picture is stored.
- Keep the bank statement: If a product is indeed faulty a bank statement can be used as a proof of purchase. The issue lies when the product isn’t. Store policy may dictate a product which isn’t faulty requires a receipt to exchange.
- Photocopying: As with taking a picture, a photocopy is seen in most legal cases as a credible replication of an original document. Storing a photocopy in a file at home can be a better alternative to a picture which can be accidentally deleted from phones or computers.
- Hairdryer treatment: An unusual and possibly risky treatment. Applying gentle heat from a hairdryer from a few feet away can bring back writing on an original receipt but can also burn the paper if done incorrectly. A possible last measure but not recommended.
Seeking legal action when products cause harm is a simple process and hands the responsibility of proceedings over to your solicitor. If you produce a copy of the original receipt (or the receipt itself) to a solicitor then the burden of resolving liability and finding the right people to seek action against. Solicitors at Scott Rees & Co often undertake product liability claims using multiple samples of a proof of purchase including photos or photocopies. It is standard practice to produce a number of copies which makes your job easy; simply relay the facts, send us some copies of your receipt and allow us to do the work for you.
Should you require any legal assistance for faulty products which have caused harm, call us on 0808 223 2773. We offer a hassle free service on a no win no fee basis meaning if your claim is unsuccessful, you won’t pay a penny. We also have a recommend a friend service earning you £250 for suggesting us to a friend or family member. All they then need to do is fill in our recommend a friend form here and confirm that it was you who recommended us to them.
1. Wikipedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Thermal_paper.jpg