Have you ever returned fabric?

Returning a length of fabric isn't the same as returning an item of clothing. Most stores state very clearly that fabric cannot be refunded or returned once cut, which is understandable. However there are circumstances under which you might have cause to return fabric. I've been sewing and buying fabric for seven years, and over that time I have had cause to complain about faulty fabric three times - all within the last year. I thought it might be helpful to share what happened in those situations as it seems to be a reasonably common occurrence, and look at what our rights are in the UK for returning cut fabric.
First time: I bought 3.5 metres of fabric online from a UK shop and discovered soon after that there were holes in one area of the fabric. I called the store and spoke to the owner who was really apologetic and embarrassed, as there had been some issues with the quality of that fabric but the problem with my order hadn't been noticed. I confirmed that replacing just a metre of the fabric would be sufficient as the damage was limited to that area. A replacement piece of fabric was sent to me but I didn't have to return the damaged fabric or send a photo.

Second time: I bought a pre-cut and folded length of fabric from a factory shop while on holiday elsewhere in the UK. A few weeks after I returned, I unfolded it to wash it and realised that there was a printing flaw along most of the length of it - a white line disrupting the printed pattern. As the fabric was sold as seconds, I didn't think I would have much of a case but I phoned the factory shop and they sent me a replacement metre, no questions asked with no requirement to provide proof of payment, a photo of the damage or return the fabric. In this case, the flaw was really obvious when the fabric was unfolded but I was unable to see it when bought as a folded piece, and it was a much more serious flaw than in any of the seconds fabric they sold, which was in usable condition.
Third time: I bought some denim in a local fabric shop. However, once the denim was washed and dried at home, it became obvious that there was a big fade line right down the centre that could not be ironed away. Deep creases are one thing (and can be removed using techniques like this) but a fade line is definitely a flaw.

I had bought the fabric with the gift voucher and couldn't find a receipt and had no other proof of purchase like a transaction on my bank account. So, I emailed a photo of the damage to the shop and explained that I didn't have any proof of purchase but to let them know that the fabric was flawed so that they didn't sell it to anyone else. To my surprise, they apologised and sent me a replacement gift voucher. Even better, they didn't ask for the fabric back and I was still able to cut out my project by cutting the fabric on the double fold instead of folding it down the centre.

Under the UK's Consumer Rights Act 2015, there are three key reasons why goods may be returned:
  • Satisfactory quality  Goods shouldn't be faulty or damaged when you receive them. You should ask what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory for the goods in question. For example, bargain-bucket products won’t be held to as high standards as luxury  goods. 
  • Fit for purpose  The goods should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose you made known to the retailer before you agreed to buy the goods. 
  • As described  The goods supplied must match any description given to you, or any models or samples shown to you at the time of purchase
 (From Which website)

In my three examples, there were fabric flaws meaning that that fabric was not of "satisfactory quality". Other occasions to return a fabric might be because the fibre content was not "as described". For example, if you found out that the 100% wool fabric you bought had a polyester content after doing a burn test at home. This would be legitimate grounds for the return - hard to prove if you buy fabric from a market stall where things don't have labels but easier to prove if the content is listed online or on a label, and it turns out not to be the case. Equally, if a fabric you bought started bobbling after a couple of washes, it would be possible to make a claim for it not being of "satisfactory quality", although as stated above, this claim would have more weight if the fabric was not a cheap buy. Or if you bought a waterproof fabric that turned out not to be waterproof, that could be classed as not "fit for purpose."

UK Law gives you a 30 day period after purchase under which to get a full refund, and after that period, the options are "repair or replace." Repair doesn't really apply in the case of fabric, so replacement would be the option. If a replacement (or repair) cannot be made - if the fabric was sold out, for example - then a refund has to be given by the retailer.

However you have up to 6 months after purchase to report a problem:

"If you discover the fault within the first six months after buying the product, it is presumed to have been there since the time of purchase - unless the retailer can prove otherwise. During this time, it's up to the retailer to prove that the fault wasn't there when you bought it - it's not up to you to prove that it was."

After six months, the burden is on you to prove an issue. This could be a problem when pulling fabric from a stash that has been bought months (or years earlier).

Until I researched the law for this post, I didn't know that you could get a refund in the 30 day period, but I was happy to have been given a replacement and also to have been left with the faulty fabric in each case as each time the fabric will still be usable to some degree. I was also impressed by how easily the issue was dealt with each time. Retailers understand that fabric can sometimes be faulty and all were keen to rectify the issue.


Here are my tips for ensuring that you aren't stuck with faulty fabric:

  • Check fabric carefully when buying or when it arrives after an online order. Look out for those things that would count as fabric flaws - holes, misprints and fade lines that don't come out - hold fabric up to the light and examine closely, unfold it and check it when it arrives. 
  • Wash it after purchase - colour runs could also show that fabric is not of "satisfactory quality."
  • Keep your receipt! However another proof of purchase such as record of  a card transaction, is also acceptable
  •  Get in touch as soon as you can after purchase, by email or phone, and have photos ready

Have you ever returned fabric? What was the reason and what was your experience?

K x

Sources
The Consumer Rights Act here
Returning Goods here


22 comments:

  1. I have attempted to return fabric once. It's a big online vendor in the US that shall remain nameless. There was a flaw along the selvedge line that went into the fabric proper. Despite sending pics, the vendor refused to acknowledge a problem. I did have a problem with Pellon interfacing. The company not only took my complaint seriously but overnighted an entire bolt of replacement interfacing. To say I was surprised and happy was an understatement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terrible service from the big company but glad to hear of the good result with interfacing - it's brilliant to receive considerate customer service

      Delete
  2. Great collection of information in one place. Thank you. I have had a couple of instances where the seller noticed a problem when cutting but their customer service contacted me to sort out to my satisfaction. They were Sew Essential and Dragonfly Fabrics. As sewists themselves they understand and were great K xXx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, great to hear of your positive experiences

      Delete
  3. Such a good point! I've had one incident where a blue line was down the centre of some of my cream Riley Blake print cotton. It was about 30cm long and was baffling to me how it happened.
    I sent pics and asked them to check if the whole bolt was affected. They said they couldn't see anything their end and it may have happened at my house but in the end gave me a replacement fat quarter for the piece affected. Glad you had happy results

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How weird! That's great that a fat quarter was enough as a replacement but I imagine that wouldn't be a suitable replacement in all cases, depending on the placement of the mark, I suppose

      Delete
  4. Really useful info, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've only had to return fabric once because of quality problems, but thankfully it was from Plush Addict who have a free UK returns policy anyway (and they were very apologetic about not having noticed the faults) so it was no problem!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for sharing. I have never returned fabric. I've found flaws in the past, but have always been able to work around them. I'm not good at checking, or washing fabric immediately though, unless I plan to use it straight away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I'm not always the best either, trying to be better!

      Delete
  7. Great post Kerry. I've only had problems with faulty fabric a couple of times - both with online purchases, and both times the retailer refunded me the cost of the fabric (but not the postage). In both cases the fabric had sold out, so they couldn't offer a replacement. I've also had an issue with badly cut fabric (eg, I ordered 2m, but it was cut so badly that it measured 2m at one end, and 1.5m at the other!!) and again, the retailer was quick to resolve this without wanting to see any proof of purchase/photos etc. Liberty once sent me completely the wrong fabric, and when I called them up about it, they acted as though they were doing me a massive favour by sending me out the correct fabric, you know, as a "gesture of goodwill". That made me chuckle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, that's pretty cheeky! The cutting error is interesting too, especially as they didn't ask for any proof. Perhaps they employed someone who was notoriously bad at cutting fabric!

      Delete
  8. This is really interesting, thanks. I bought some poplin from liberty last year and discovered it had a fade line down the middle once I'd washed it. I was really upset as the fabrics was expensive but just assumed I wouldn't be able to return it as I had washed it already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no, that's really frustrating!

      Delete
  9. This is interesting as it seems like the law there is modelled very closely on ours, which as been around for ages. I have had it happen a few times but as I know all of the fabric retailers in my city personally and always have, I've never been given any hassles. And if anyone has trouble with anything they buy in our shop, I consider it my responsibility to make it up to them. If a zip busts once you've set it, a replacement zip doesn't really compensate for the work they put into setting it in. Heck even if you buy a finished product you're the one who has to haul back to the shop to sort out the replacement. I've been known to deliver personally a replacement or swap out to a customer. Do unto others...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant customer service - you're right that the labour has a cost too.

      Delete
  10. I bought some knit fabric at Joann's, and after washing it (standard procedure for me) I discovered that it had a smell most akin to cat urine. I brought the piece back to the store, asked for my money back, and let the agent smell it. Full return, no problem at all. One of the reasons that I wash all fabrics purchased is the possibility of similar conditions in warehouses. I don't wash wool, but I take it to my local dry cleaner's and ask that it be heavily steam pressed. Better safe than sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yuck! Glad the problem was easily rectified

      Delete
  11. I've only ever bought fabric new once - from an Ebay seller and luckily it was perfect! Lots of useful info should I ever run out of vintage fabric! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha, I hope you never do run out of vintage fabric! :-)

      Delete

Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say