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[In deciding to publish Jim Fraser’s outline of consumer law (as it affects us here in the UK), I had in mind that not only pipers, but many amateur pipe makers who have the urge to turn professional, might find some of the following helpful.



Over the years I have bought bagpipes and accessories from a variety of sources and pipe- makers. Mostly I have been satisfied with the quality of the goods I have received, the price (well      almost!) and the level of service and/or repair.

Sure, there have been problems along the way e.g. makers have failed to deliver on time, and I am well used to makers arguing that all the difficulties I have been experiencing with my pipes are down to the inherent nature of the beast/instrument or to my lack of skill, and not related in any way to deficits on their part.

Equally, I have no shortage of stories and legends on the extra miles many a pipe-maker has gone to satisfy my piping needs and the needs of others.

In many instances I have felt a bond between the pipe-maker and myself. A bond that comes from a common love and shared interest in bagpipes. It is a bond that has sometimes acted to disguise the fact that our relationship is essentially a business one.

Now it is great to have a good and personal relationship/goodwill with a pipe-maker but 1 feel I constantly have to remind myself that I am a paying customer in these relationships and that I should have the same expectations and rights that I have when I order non- bagpipe goods.

Recently, an order I received did not meet my required basic specifications and I was made to feel awkward just because I was asserting my right to complain and return the pipes.

In order to empower myself as a customer I contacted my local Trading Standards Officer and the advice he gave me quickly helped to resolve my problem.

Forewarned is forearmed and I would like to share some of the following information that enabled me to assert my rights as a consumer. The following information is from the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1944 and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regula- tions.

My contact in my local Trading Standards office informed me that there are certain basic legal rights consumers have when buying bagpipes. These rights apply to pipes bought or hired from a shop/workshop/trader/seller/agent, street market, mail/written order, catalogue, on the intemet/e-mail, by phone/fax or even someone selling them on your doorstep, and when you also pay for a service done on your pipes e.g. a repair


The law in the UK says that goods such as bagpipes must be:- Of satisfactory quality - they must meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as acceptable bearing in mind the way they were described, what they cost and any other relevant circumstances. This covers, for instance, the appearance and finish of the pipes. The pipes must be free from defects, even minor ones, except when they have been brought to your attention by the seller.

The pipes must be fit for their purpose, including any particular purpose mentioned by you to the seller - for example if you are buying a set and you explain that you want one played in a particular type of key, the seller must not give you pipes that do not play in the key you requested.

The Pipes must be as described. If you are told that the pipes are made of African black- wood, then they should not turn out to have been made of another wood or material.

These are your statutory rights. When you decide to complain, bear in mind how the pipes were described. New Pipes must look new and unspoiled as well as work properly, but if the pipes are second hand then you cannot expect perfect quality.

When you reject faulty pipes you may be offered a replacement, free repair or credit note. You do not have to agree to any such offer. You can insist on having your money back in full.

If there is something wrong with the pipes that you buy, tell whoever you bought them from as soon as possible. If you are unable to return to their shop or workplace within a few days of making the purchase, it is a good idea to telephone to let him/her know about your com- plaint. Make a note of the time, date and content/outcome of the conversation and to whom you spoke.

If you tell the seller promptly that the pipes are faulty and you do not want them, you should be able to get your money back. As long as you have not legally accepted the pipes you can still reject them - that is, refuse to accept them.

One of the ways you accept pipes is by keeping them, without complaint, after you have had a reasonable time to examine them. What is [a] reasonable [time] is not fixed; it de- pends on all the circumstances. But normally you can at least take your pipes home and try them out

Once you have, in the legal sense, accepted the pipes, you lose the right to full refund. You can only claim compensation, and you have to keep your claim to a reasonable minimum. Normally you have to accept an offer to put the pipes right, or the cost of a repair. But if the pipes are beyond economical repair you are entitled to a replacement, or the cash value of a replacement if none is offered.

The law says it is up to the seller to deal with complaints about defective goods or pipes or other failures to comply with your statutory rights. But you may have additional rights against the manufacturer/pipe-maker under a guarantee. You have the same rights even if you lose your receipt. A receipt, however, is useful evidence of where and when you bought the goods.


You may be able to claim compensation if you suffer loss because of faulty goods. For example, if faulty pipes means you have to cancel a concert.

You have no real grounds for complaint if you: Were told about the fault; Examined the pipes when you bought them and should have seen the fault; Did the damage yourself; Made a mistake when purchasing the pipes; Simply changed your mind about the pipes.

Under these circumstances you are not entitled to anything, but many shops [for instance] will help out of goodwill. It is always worth asking.

When you pay for a service - for example you engage a pipe-maker to repair, restore, refur- bish, enhance or alter a set of pipes you are entitled to certain standards.

A service should be carried out:- with reasonable care and skill - a job should be done to a proper standard of workmanship: within a reasonable time - even if you have not actually agreed a definite completion time with the supplier of the service: at a reasonable charge, if no price has been fixed in advance - if the price was fixed at the outset or some other way of working out the charge was agreed, you cannot complain later that it is unreasonable.

Always ask a pipe- maker/trader how much a particular job will cost.

Where materials (such as brass, silver, gold etc) are used in the provision of a service, or the service involves fitting goods (such as extra keys or drones), the materials and goods are covered by the same statutory rights as when you buy them directly.

The law also protects you from unfair clauses that a pipe-maker/seller may include in their contract with you. You are not bound by a standard term in a contract with a trader if it un- fairly weights the contract against you. This applies particularly to exclusion clauses.

But a new law means that, in contracts concluded since 1st July 1995, other kinds of unfair small print are also covered.

Examples include:- Penalty clauses and (except in special circumstances) terms which give the trader the right to vary the terms of the contract (for instance by increasing the price) without you having the right to withdraw.

Terms which try to stop you holding back any part of the price of goods or services if they turn out to be defective, or prevent you from withdrawing from the contract while allowing the trader to do so.

Terms which allow the trader to dishonour promises, for instance ones made by salesmen or agents. Or - Terms which try to stop you being able to go to court over a dispute. The new law applies to standard terms - those you have not negotiated yourself- in contracts for goods/pipes and services you buy as a consumer.

So the law cannot be used to argue that a contract does not represent fair value for money.

Please remember that the information on these pages can only produce a rough guide and should not be read as a substitute for the law.

If you bought your pipes and services outside the UK then you have to pursue any claim against a pipe-maker/trader in that country using their indigenous consumer laws.


If you are not happy with the pipes or the services requested and a call to the pipe- maker/ trader etc is not met with the appropriate response then you can contact your local Trading Standards Council and they will send you out sample letters that cover and condense every- thing detailed above, and you merely have to substitute the appropriate name and details where indicated and sign and send out to the maker/trader.

I would also advise that pipes should always be bought on a credit card as this gives you ex- tra protection (I refer you to the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for further details).

Also, if you are in dispute with a pipe-maker/seller it is worth mentioning that you can en- gage the services of an independent maker for his/her views on the quality of the work. This can then be charged to the pipe-maker and enforced if validated via the courts.

Bear in mind that pipe-makers are a scarce resource and may not yet (and for all the good reasons) be knowledgeable about consumer law, and how it relates to bagpipes. If you bought directly from them I advise you to be respectful, calm and fair in your negotiations but to demonstrate firmness and determination as well.

Finally, acting on some of the information presented here will not transform you into a to-be

-avoided-at-all-costs-bolshie-bagpipe-buying litigant. Indeed, the opposite is the case. Higher standards and levels of services will be talked about and shared within the piping community and beyond, and can only result in an increase in sales for the pipe-makers/ sellers.