By Claire West

The OFT has today launched a new online resource (www.oft.gov.uk/saleofgoodsact) to help sales staff comply with the law when customers buy or return goods.

The Sale of Goods Act (SOGA) is the main law that relates to the purchase of consumer goods. SOGA covers elements such as quality of goods, how they are described when being sold whether they are fit for purpose and when a customer is entitled to a refund.

OFT research estimates that problems with unsatisfactory goods cost consumers around £2 billion a year. Following discussions with businesses and trade associations, the OFT has developed the SOGA Hub to help sales staff understand their legal obligations and improve customer service.

The hub is a free online resource for retailers and includes a simple at-a-glance guide to the law, detailed explanations, practical examples, and training materials and a quiz. The materials can either be used as they are or incorporated into existing staff training programmes, making them suitable for both small and large firms. The material is also tailored to be suitable for people dealing with various levels of consumer contact.

Jason Freeman, Legal Director in the OFT’s Consumer Group, said:

‘Sales staff may be unsure of their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act as it has been updated over the years and new requirements have been added.

‘The OFT has worked to provide clarity on this cornerstone of consumer protection through the new hub. This will help ensure that continuing competition and innovation by high street retailers is supported by staff understanding their practical responsibilities and customers’ rights.’

Graham Wynn, Assistant Director for Consumer, Competition and Regulatory Affairs from the British Retail Consortium said: 'Good customer service is the foundation for retail growth. We welcome any practical help that aims to reduce burdens on retailers to meet the law. We worked with the OFT to help make sure that this new tool is practical and useful for our members and will help them meet customer needs.'