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Consumer rights: returning goods this christmas

Consumer rights: returning goods this christmas

Category: Money

Updated: 19/12/2016
First Published: 13/11/2012

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

With Christmas only weeks away the thought of heading to the high street for a quick shopping spree or opening up the laptop draws ever closer!
However, when every other Brit in the UK has the same idea as you shopping can become a stressful time especially if you've left it a little late to get started!

Shopping for others can sometimes make us a little blasé when it comes to our consumer rights. But when you buy gifts for your friends and family it's important that you know your rights and that anything you buy can be returned for an exchange, refund or store credit.

1. Gift Receipt - If you're buying a gift, say it's a gift!

  • When purchasing a gift at most big name high street stores ask for a gift receipt as well as your receipt for payment.
  • In smaller shops get the shop assistant to write that it's a gift on the receipt. This transfers the rights if the person the present is for needs to return it.
  • Some shops offer extended returns policies for Christmas gifts as well so be sure to ask when purchasing.

2. Unsuitable Goods Refund - It's not a consumer right to get a refund if goods aren't suitable (wrong size, colour, etc.)

  • You may not know this one, but you actually don't have any statutory rights if you later decide you don't want what you've bought.
  • Having said that, many high street retailers will let you return goods you don't want as a goodwill gesture.
  • Some shops may offer refunds, and some may only offer an exchange or credit note, which may not be acceptable to you.
  • No matter how long the queue behind you, it's vital you ask about the shop's returns policy before buying – particularly for gifts you're not 100% about.

3. Online Shopping - Online purchases give you 7 days for returning goods – whatever the reason

  • Online, phone and postal orders benefit from greater consumer protection. Legally, you get 7 days to return the goods to the company, even if it's just because you've decided you don't want them anymore.
  • But whilst you get this enhanced protection you may still have to pay for postage.
  • Remember if the item gets lost in the post you may lose your money. So opt for a tracked postal delivery to be safe – especially for expensive items.
  • This 7 day rule doesn't apply to personalised goods (so, engraved iPods for instance), perishable goods or a CD/DVD where you break a security seal.

4. You have statutory rights if goods are faulty

Goods you buy must be:

  • Satisfactory quality - not being faulty and lasting for the time you'd expect them to.
  • Fit for purpose - being fit for the purpose they are to be used for. This also includes being fit for any specific need you told the retailer about.
  • As described – goods must match the description that a retailer and/or the product packaging tells you.

5. If your goods aren't delivered on time…

  • You've got the right to cancel the order and receive a full refund if your goods aren't delivered (from an EU-based retailer):
    • By a set delivery date
    • Or within 30 days if a delivery date isn't specified

6. Consumer rights for returning goods can vary depending on where you buy them

  • Buy the same item in a different shop and you can get very different returns policies. Some designer clothing labels for instance, may not offer refunds if you later decide you don't want the goods.
  • However, when they're concessions within larger department stores they have to adhere to the store's policy, not their own. The price won't necessarily differ, so it's worth shopping around to see if another retailer with a better returns policy sells what you want.

7. Pay by credit card for extra rights (particularly online)

  • Paying by credit card gives you extra consumer rights. That's because your credit card provider is jointly liable with the merchant you are buying from (under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974), for goods worth between £100 and £30,000.
  • So if your gift is not delivered (for instance, if you've ordered from a website that later transpires not to be bona fide and doesn't deliver the goods you ordered) you can claim from your credit card lender, providing the goods are worth £100 or more.
  • The same rights apply if the goods you've ordered are faulty, or develop a fault later on. In uncertain times it's worthwhile to know that even if the retailer you bought from goes bust, you can still claim back from your credit card provider.

What next?

Compare the best credit cards

Citizens Advice Bureau
Downloadable factsheets on topics such as buying over the internet.

Consumer Direct (follow link or call 08454 04 05 06)
Government-funded consumer advice service. You can find out what your rights are in a specific situation, as well as finding out how to complain.

Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.