If I try out and / or break an item in a store in the UK, am I in any way legally obliged to buy it?
September 2, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe

If I try out and / or break an item in a store in the UK, am I in any way legally obliged to buy it?

This is two questions really.

Firstly, if I unpack and try out an item in the store, am I obliged to buy it?

Secondly, if I unintentionally break an item in the store, am I obliged to buy it?

Please provide links to reliable websites which can back this up with reference to the specific relevant laws.
posted by FuckingAwesome to Law & Government (5 answers total)
In the first case, if your intentional actions decrease the value of the goods, then you could be charged with Criminal Damage. Whether this is the case would depend on the goods and other circumstances.

There are unlikely to be specific statutes that cover the second case. This is something that would be determined by tort law, which is largely determined by common law. They might be able to recover damages from you if they could show you were negligent in handling the goods. The laws of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are different. If you want to know the common law on a subject, check out Halsbury's Laws of England.
posted by grouse at 11:15 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

No citations, but my understanding is that a) as long as you didn't break an item intentionally and b) you leave your name and permanent address with the store, you are not obliged to make any sort of payment before you leave the store. Any restitution would come via your being subsequently sued for damages and will likely capped by the court at replacement cost (not retail, unless irreplaceable) of the item.
posted by cromagnon at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2011

Many stores have a sign to the effect of 'If you break it, it's yours' which they could cite as fair warning. These tend to be smaller outfits, though - I've broken jars of sauce etc. in supermarkets and nobody has asked me to pay for the damage.
posted by mippy at 5:22 AM on September 3, 2011

Yes, it depends on the shop I think. Smaller shops do tend to have signs saying that you will have to pay for things you break but without a sign I would not assume it was the case. I've broken things in supermarkets before and haven't been asked to pay.
posted by Laura_J at 11:22 AM on September 4, 2011

Displaying a sign may or may not change the legal situation, depending on the circumstances. I would not expect that a "If you break it, it's yours" sign is automatically binding.
posted by grouse at 11:29 AM on September 4, 2011

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