In the guide
- What are mobility aids?
- Who provides mobility aids?
- The law
- Payment surcharges
- Buying a mobility aid: what to look out for
- I've been subjected to high-pressure selling & been misled by a trader: what should I do?
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
There are many products on the market designed to help you with your mobility and to make day-to-day living easier. The products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, accurately described and clearly priced. You should shop around, only use recommended traders, get everything in writing, take time to read through literature (especially the contract) and try the goods first.
If you buy a mobility aid from a trader who sells 'off-premises' (such as during a visit to your home) or sells at a distance and without face-to-face contact with you (such as from a website), you may have a cancellation period of 14 days during which you can cancel the contract.
In addition to the above, you have cancellation rights if you sign a contract to buy a mobility aid at home and sign a credit agreement at the same time to finance the purchase. In this case, you have a five-day cooling off period from the time you receive the second copy of the agreement, during which you can cancel the contract and/or the credit agreement.
What are mobility aids?
There are many products on the market designed to help you with your mobility and to make day-to-day living easier. These products include:
- bath lifts and bath / shower seats
- walking aids
- walk-in baths
- hearing aids
- specialist beds
Who provides mobility aids?
Public bodies such as the National Health Service and local authorities provide mobility aids but the eligibility criteria, the type of product and its availability can vary throughout the UK. Some charities will provide you with products, loan them out to you or give you a voucher to enable you to buy your own. Again, depending on eligibility and the local authority where you live, you may qualify for a 'personal budget', which enables you to buy your own products. Find out more about personal budgets on the Disability Rights UK website. You can of course choose to buy products from any trader that sells mobility aids, without any support or financial assistance.
Contact your local authority, your healthcare professional or Scope to find out where your local disability information and advice centre is. You can also find information on the GOV.UK website.
This guidance applies to circumstances where you buy your mobility aid as a consumer from a trader.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out what you are entitled to expect from a mobility aid supplied by a trader. These are commonly referred to as your 'statutory rights'. The law also gives you remedies against the trader if it fails to meet your expectations.
- the trader must have the 'right to supply' the mobility aid to you. If they do not actually own them, they cannot sell them to you; if this is the case you will have a legal remedy
- the mobility aid must be of 'satisfactory quality'. The description, price, condition, fitness for purpose, appearance and finish, safety, durability, and freedom from minor defects are all important factors when considering quality. Public statements, such as those in advertising or on labelling, made by the trader, the producer or their representative about the mobility aid, must be accurate and can also be taken into account when deciding if the item is of satisfactory quality
- if you make a trader aware that you want the mobility aid to be 'fit for a particular purpose' (even if it is something that it is not usually supplied for) then you have the right to expect it is fit for that purpose. For example, if you want a mobility aid suitable for a particular disability and you tell the trader this, then the one supplied should be fit for that purpose
- you have the right to expect that the mobility aid is 'as described'. For example, does it have all the features claimed?
- if you see or examine a sample, then the mobility aid must 'match the sample'. For example, if you chose a specific material based on a sample book then it has to match
- if you see or examine a model, then the mobility aid must 'match the model'. For example, the boxed version that you are supplied with must be the same as the one you examined
- short-term right to reject the mobility aid and obtain a full refund
- right to a repair or replacement
- right to a price reduction or a final right to reject the mobility aid
You will not be entitled to anything if:
- you were told of any faults before you bought the mobility aid
- the fault was obvious and it would have been reasonable to have noticed it on examination before buying it
- you caused any damage yourself
- you made a mistake - for example, you ordered the wrong size
- you have changed your mind about the mobility aid or seen it cheaper elsewhere
The 'Sale & supply of goods: your consumer rights' guide gives more information on your rights and which remedy you are entitled to.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also covers unfair terms in all consumer contracts (contracts between a trader and a consumer), including contracts for the supply of mobility aids, whether they are in writing or not. It also covers notices if they are 'consumer notices', which means they set out rights or obligations between you and a trader or try to deny or restrict a trader's responsibility to you.
Traders must draft and present their contracts and notices to you in a way that is fair and open and that respects your legitimate interests. Terms and notices should be transparent; the wording used should be plain (no legal jargon), capable of being understood and legible. They should not be designed to trick or trap you and any terms that are important (because they may put you at a disadvantage) must be prominent.
You are not legally bound by an unfair contract term or a consumer notice and you have the right to challenge it, in court if necessary.
The 'Unfair terms in consumer contracts & notices' guide gives more information.
If you buy a mobility aid from a trader who sells 'off-premises' (such as during a visit to your home) or sells at a distance and without face-to-face contact with you (such as from a website), you have extra rights under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. A cancellation period of 14 days during which you can cancel the contract may apply. Traders must give you certain information (such as details of the goods or services, information on costs, cancellation requirements, payment, delivery and performance) before they make a contract with you. They must get your clear agreement if they want to charge you for 'extras'.
It is important to note that if a trader visits you at home and leaves a quotation with you, or sends you one later and you do not immediately agree to go ahead with the contract, it becomes an on-premises contract rather than an off-premises or distance contract. This means that the trader does not have to give you the same pre-contract information and does not have to give you cancellation rights. For example, a trader who supplies specialist beds calls at your home by appointment. After you have discussed your requirements, the trader checks where the bed it to be located and then leaves you with a written quotation. You are told that the price quoted will be honoured if you go ahead with the contract in three months. Two months later you agree to the purchase and sign the contract. As you did not agree to the contract immediately, it is classed as an on-premises contract rather than an off-premises one.
There are clear rules on delivery and the point at which you become responsible for the goods. If the trader sends you 'unsolicited' goods (goods that you have not ordered) you can keep them and you do not have to pay for them.
If the trader provides a telephone helpline for you to contact them about the goods you have bought, it cannot be charged at more than the basic rate.
Please see our guides 'Buying at home: off-premises contracts explained' and 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order: distance contracts explained' for more information.
In addition to the above you have cancellation rights if you sign a contract to buy a mobility aid at home and sign a credit agreement (organised by the trader) at the same time to finance the purchase. In this case, you have a five-day cooling off period from the time you receive the second copy of the agreement during which you can cancel the contract and/or the credit agreement.
If you pay for the mobility aid by credit card or on finance arranged by the trader, and if it costs more than £100 but less than £30,000, you are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Section 75 of the Act makes the card / finance provider as responsible as the trader for a breach of contract or a misrepresentation. If there is a breach of contract or misrepresentation you are entitled to take action against the trader, the card / finance provider or both. This does not apply to charge cards or debit cards.
If you use a debit card to purchase the mobility aid or if you use a credit card and the price of the goods is less than £100 (your rights under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 would not apply), you may be able to take advantage of the chargeback scheme. Chargeback is the term used by card providers for reclaiming a card payment from the trader's bank. If you can provide evidence of a breach of contract (for example, the mobility aid is not delivered, is faulty or the trader has ceased trading) you can ask your card provider to attempt to recover the payment. Check with your card provider as to how the scheme rules apply to your card, whether internet transactions are covered and what the time limit is for making a claim.
The trader or manufacturer may give you a guarantee with the mobility aid or sell you a warranty or an extended warranty. These products may give you extra cover but it is important to remember that you still have your legal rights against the trader. Guarantees and warranties must not affect those rights in any way. See the 'Guarantees & warranties' guide for more information.
Under the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which were amended by the Payment Services Regulations 2017, traders are banned from imposing surcharges on consumers for using the following payment methods:
- credit, debit or charge cards
- e-payment services such as PayPal
- Apple Pay, Android Pay or other similar payment methods
Traders can impose a surcharge for other methods of payment, but the amount must not be excessive; it must reflect the actual cost to the trader of processing the payment. The Regulations apply to most sales and service contracts.
The Regulations give you rights to redress. Any requirement to pay a banned surcharge or the part of a surcharge that is excessive, is unenforceable by the trader. This means you do not have to pay. If you have already paid the surcharge or the excess, you are entitled to a refund.
If you have a complaint about surcharges, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
Buying a mobility aid: what to look out for
Seek help and advice from independent, impartial sources to establish which mobility aids may be suitable for you and carry out research on these products (for example, their design and durability) before making a decision to buy.
Think carefully about what you want the product for and how you will use it. It is advisable to discuss your future requirements with your healthcare professional as this could affect your decision.
Find out if the trader you are considering buying from is a member of a trade association, such as the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA). The BHTA's code of practice is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).
Check with your local authority to see if the trader you are buying from operates a good-trader scheme such as the Support with Confidence scheme. These schemes help you find care and support services that you can trust.
Services offered by the trader (such as a mobility assessment carried out on you by the trader before the sale and the after-sales service on the product) are extremely important so you should find out as much as you can about the trader as well as the product itself.
Shop around to make sure you get the best deal you can. Prices can often vary significantly between traders.
It may be beneficial to have an assessment carried out by the trader in your home but always ensure you have someone with you in case you are subjected to high-pressure selling or are misled over the characteristics and capabilities of the product.
Make sure you get everything in writing, especially any incentives such as discounts or free offers.
Do not rush or allow yourself to be pressured into signing an agreement straight away. Ask to see a copy of the brochure and the contract and make sure you take the time to read them carefully. If necessary show the literature and the contract to someone you know for their advice and opinion.
If you have access to the internet, make sure that the specifications of the product are comprehensive enough to allow you to make an informed decision and check that they are clearly priced. Check the terms and conditions on the website before agreeing to or buying anything.
If you buy a product at a distance, some traders may argue that it is bespoke (specially made for you) to avoid having to give you cancellation rights if you change your mind. Always check the product before you go ahead.
Make sure that the product that is demonstrated to you or that you try out in your home is the same as the one you eventually buy. If it is not, have the differences clearly explained to you.
Examine the product after delivery and make sure it is what you agreed to buy.
Never buy any products on the doorstep from a trader who turns up uninvited.
Find out what after-sales services the trader offers and what extras you might have to pay for.
VAT (value added tax) at the rate of 20% is added to most goods. However, there are certain goods that may be VAT-free if they are designed to assist with a disability or at reduced VAT if they are mobility aids for people over 60. More information on financial help if you're disabled is available on the GOV.UK website.
I've been subjected to high-pressure selling & been misled by a trader: what should I do?
If you have been subjected to unfair sales practices, such as high-pressure selling, misleading statements, a no-refunds sign in the shop, excessively high prices or you have been misled into buying a product that is unsuitable, the trader may be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Report your complaint to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.
If you enter into a contract to buy a mobility aid because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices: rights to redress' guide gives more information.
- Consumer Credit Act 1974
- Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
- Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012
- Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013
- Consumer Rights Act 2015
- Payment Services Regulations 2017
Last reviewed / updated: October 2019
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
For further information in England and Wales contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506. In Scotland contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. Both provide free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues.
© 2019 itsa Ltd.