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.


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 '17 at 22:36
  • Buyers typically read only a tiny fraction of a book before buying it — not enough to know if they will enjoy the work as a whole. And for a non-fiction book readers who are not experts on the subject are unlikely to be competent to judge the quality in advance.
    – bdsl
    Apr 17 '17 at 22:38
  • 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 '17 at 22:50
  • 1
    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.
    – Nij
    Apr 17 '17 at 23:06
  • 1
    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 '17 at 20:27

The act says: there is no implied term about the quality or fitness.

Your personal evaluation of a book (as well or badly written) would belong with terms that could be only implied.

You always can return a book if the print is blurry, etc.

  • That's not the complete sentence from the act. What it actually says is "Except as provided by this section and section 15 below and subject to any other enactment, there is no implied about the quality or fitness for any particular purpose of goods supplied under a contract of sale."
    – bdsl
    Apr 25 '17 at 7:45
  • @bdsl It is the clause and these are clauses to hold; exactly for this reason, guys rephrase the law, sometimes. Your quote -- "there is no implied about the quality or fitness" -- is missing out on something, by the way. Apr 26 '17 at 20:36
  • Obviously, there might be nobody to care to rephrase this clause: would you expect to buy a car and return it, after a few months, cash back, because it does not give you the ride any more? Apr 26 '17 at 20:45

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