What if a customer rejects my goods?

Long term customers dissatisfied with the condition or quality of goods supplied can usually resolve the complaint by discussion with the distributor. At the other end, a wholesaler making a single sale may face a difficult customer taking issue without apparent justification. The suspicion naturally arises that the customer is trying to duck payment, but how can you deal with this?

The best plan is to get into dialogue and, assuming there is a genuine problem but the distributor does not want to go as far as replacement, to spin out the time before the customer formally rejects the goods. Negotiating and then offering a partial credit on the invoice would help create the time needed to achieve the desired delay.

The longer the delay before the rejection, the less likely courts would accept that it has been made within a “reasonable” time. Delay by the customer may be taken as a waiver of his right to reject and is consistent with acceptance of the goods and inconsistent with rejection of them. What amounts to a reasonable time will depend on the particular facts, for example the type of goods involved and how long the customer ought to take to investigate the matter. Customers will always be entitled to claim for defects but their loss must be mitigated, typically by allowing the distributor to repair or replace goods at no cost.

Around 20 years ago a new car was purchased from a main dealer, but driven very little over a three-week period before a defect nearly caused an accident on the M25. The buyer then attempted to reject the car but a court decided it was too late; by delaying he had affirmed the contract and was stuck with the car. A longer period would be allowed today but the principle is the same.

copy; S Calnan 2009

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