When products are sold in England and Wales there there is an implied contract term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality. (Sale of Goods Act, Section 14)

Does this mean that consumers are entitled to a refund if a book is badly written?

Of course in many cases it would be hard for a court to judge writing quality objectively, and I suppose the policy aims of allowing free expression and consumer protection would be in conflict.

2 Answers 2


The Act further clarifies that

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.

When you buy the book, you're doing so because you have an expectation the story will be entertaining, or having it available is somehow useful to you.

Unless you have been lied to, by the bookseller, the fact that your expectation does not match what happened is not the problem of the seller of the book. Moreover, especially when you physically purchase the book from a brick-and-mortar shop yourself, unless the book has never been opened or read by anybody, you have had ample opportunity to check whether the book is of suitable quality for your purpose, as a reasonable person would do.

As a consumer you are protected from books being printed on tissue and bound with spider webs (durable), with invisible ink (fit for purpose), covered with razor blades (safe), and generally not tatty (suitable appearance and finish; freedom from minor defect).

As such, there is no conflict between consumer protection and free expression. You are assured a book you can read for a long time, and should you dislike the story, you're also free to burn it (subject to pollution and hazard laws).

  • 2
    This seems like you are giving your own opinion. Has any of this been stated by the courts?
    – bdsl
    Apr 17, 2017 at 22:36
  • 1
    If I buy a hammer, without reading reviews, because I like the red paint on it and it breaks the first time I try to use it to drive a nail I would presumably be entitled to a refund. Where are you seeing the difference with a book?
    – bdsl
    Apr 17, 2017 at 22:50
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    A hammer that breaks on first use is clearly neither durable nor fit for purpose, it's not a relevant comparison here. If you bought a red object because it was red and it happened to be a hammer, then you have no real complaint either, since you weren't expecting it to do anything except be red, which it was.
    – user4657
    Apr 17, 2017 at 23:06
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    You arent buying a story, you are buying the book. The quality of the good refers to the physical quality of the book (e.g. howbwell bound it was, missing pages, badly typeset/inked etc.) and NOT the quality of the story written in it. You go to a bookstore to buy a book, not a story. Apr 24, 2017 at 20:27
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    We could extend @phoog's scenario slightly and say that the book was shrinkwrapped, and the buyer wasn't permitted to look inside it before buying it.
    – bdsl
    Aug 15, 2022 at 13:33

Does this mean that consumers are entitled to a refund if a book is badly written?

The questioner refers to "consumers". Therefore user4657's answer, and Teresa Pelka's answer, are both wrong for failing to cite and apply the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

I quote from Janet O'Sullivan, O'Sullivan & Hilliard's Law of Contract (2020 9 ed), p 207. The 2022 10 ed shall be published in July 2022.

8.27 According to s 61 of the CRA, a ‘consumer contract’ is defined in s 61(1) as a ‘contract between a trader and a consumer’. In turn, ‘trader’ and ‘consumer’ are defined in s 2 of the CRA as follows:

(2) ‘Trader’ means a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession, whether acting personally or through another person acting in the trader’s name or on the trader’s behalf.

(3) ‘Consumer’ means an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

(4) A trader claiming that an individual was not acting for purposes wholly or mainly outside the individual’s trade, business, craft or profession must prove it.

Consumers ought to start with the CRA 2015, which protects Consumers way more than the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

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    I'm not sure if this answers the question - can you add a conclusion, perhaps based on your reading of the CRA 2015, or ideally any readings of it from the courts? I suppose there are three possible answers: (1) yes it is regulated, courts have awarded compensation to buyers of bad books, (2) no it is not regulated, courts have consistently refused to do that, or (3) it is legally uncertain, few or no disputes of this kind have appeared before the courts, courts have made a strongly binding rule.
    – bdsl
    May 22, 2022 at 10:07
  • @bdsl You are correct that this does not DEFINITIVELY answer the question. I didn't have time to write a conclusion, because I shall need days to research the most recent case law on the CRA 2015. I shall try to do this. Remind me if I forget.
    – user43343
    May 25, 2022 at 9:31
  • @user43343 this is your reminder.
    – bdsl
    May 27, 2023 at 11:19

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