Returning unwanted or faulty goods: your rights

If you want to return a gift someone has bought you, what are your rights?

Returning gifts purchased in-store

The bad news is if you simply don’t like a present you’ve received or change your mind after buying something, you don’t always have the right to a refund.

If the gift was purchased in-store, some shops will exchange items – clothes in the wrong size, for example – or issue a credit note, but generally, they don’t have to.

The exception is if a shop has a published returns policy. If it does, then it forms part of the condition of sale and may be enforceable in court.

You should note that there are certain items you can never return for hygiene reasons, such as underwear or earrings.

Amazon refund tips and options: easiest method to return or exchange unwanted items

Returning goods purchased online

It’s different if you buy things online. Under the Consumer Contract Regulations, you have 14 days from the date the item was delivered to cancel the order, even if it's just because you don't like it.

You’ll then get 14 days from the date you officially cancelled the order to send the item back.  

The retailer should then refund you within 30 days.

But if you’re returning an unwanted Christmas present, it’s likely the buyer, and not you, will receive the refund.

One exception to getting a refund is if the goods were personalised.

So, if you get jewellery inscribed or pay to get a holiday photo made into a canvas print, you probably won’t be entitled to a refund.

Refunds on faulty goods: how to successfully complain

Returning faulty goods

If you buy something and it turns out to be faulty, you have the right to expect the shop to sort it out either by replacing the product or giving you a refund.

Some shops will try to refer you back to the manufacturer, but this is wrong: it’s the shop that you have the contract with.

The Consumer Rights Act says that goods must be of “satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time”.

So, if you buy something that doesn’t work, you have the right to a refund or repair.

The biggest disagreements tend to be over what a “reasonable length of time” means as it can be quite subjective.

Some shops also might try to refuse the return of faulty sale goods, but this is wrong. If the goods are faulty, you have the same rights whether you bought them full price or at a discount.

Do you need a receipt?

Some shops say you can only return goods with a receipt, but this isn’t the case with faulty goods.

If there’s something wrong with the item, you only need proof of purchase, which might be a bank or credit card statement.

But if the item is not faulty, you have no rights unless the store displays conditions saying otherwise.

So, if the policy is that you need a receipt to return something that isn't faulty, you’ll have to go along with it.

Your rights when shopping: Section 75, Consumer Rights Act and Sale of Goods Act

Late deliveries

If your goods are not delivered on time, your rights depend on what was agreed upon when you bought them.

So, for example, you can only complain if you or the retailer specified (and you can prove) that a pre-Christmas delivery was agreed.

If it was, then the goods not turning up on time is a breach of contract and you’re entitled to a refund.


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