Returning goods: your rights if you change your mind


Updated on 28 November 2016

Made a few Black Friday impulse buys that you now regret? We explain your shopping rights if you've changed your mind.

Returning goods bought in-store

While you obviously have the right to return goods that are faulty or not as described, you may be surprised to discover that you have no legal right to return something simply because you decide you don't want it after all.

Luckily most will give you a refund, or at least a credit note, if you take it back within 28 days.

It is certainly worth checking out the shop's returns policy before you buy.

Note that you can't return some items for hygiene reasons, such as earrings, underwear and bondage accessories.

To learn more, read our guide on How to get a refund.

Returning goods bought online

If you made your purchases online, the good news is you have greater protection compared to in-store.

Under the Consumer Contract Regulations, you can tell a retailer you want to return an item, whether faulty or not, up to 14 days after it arrives.

Some stores will offer an even longer no-quibble returns period, so again it's worth checking returns policies before buying.

You will have a full 14 days to return the item after notifying the retailer, and the store must refund you in full within 14 of receving it.

Learn more about in our guide to Online shopping: consumer rights when you buy on the internet.

Returning goods bought from a doorstep seller

If you buy something costing more than £35 from a trader who visits your home or place of work, whether you asked them to or not, you are protected by Doorstep Selling Regulations, which also grant you a 14-day cooling off period.

Just make sure you are buying from a reputable company that can be traced afterwards.

For a full guide on how to cancel, check out this section of the Citizens' Advice website.

Financial services

You have plenty of protection when buying banking or financial services such as an insurance policy, a credit card, personal loan, pension or ISA.

You enjoy a standard 14-day cooling off period, rising to 30 days for life insurance and personal pensions, regardless of whether you bought direct from the bank, by post, or through a broker.

However, your bank or broker is free to deduct reasonable charges, plus a fee reflecting the number of days cover you had.

If you bought an investment fund and stock markets crashed within the cooling off period, you won't get your losses back (unless you can satisfy the Financial Ombudsman Service that you weren't made aware of the risks).

Energy contracts

If you switch your gas or electricity supplier after being cold called by a rival, you have 14 days to cancel under the Distance Selling Regulations.

But if you agreed the service could start immediately, you will have sacrificed this cooling-off period (a fact the salesman should point out to you at the time).

You also have a 14-day cooling off period if you signed up on your doorstep, under the catchily-named Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008.

Mobile phone contracts

Most people still nip down their high street to sign a new mobile phone contract, but Distance Selling Regulations give you greater protection if you buy online.

If you placed your order by phone, mail or the web, you benefit from a 14-day cooling off period. But if you bought in a store, there's no refund unless your phone turns out to be faulty.

Extended warranties

You are legally entitled to a full refund within 45 days, unless you've made a claim on the policy.

Timeshare agreements

If you've signed up to a timeshare, the Timeshare Act 1992 gives you a 14-day cooling off period, provided you signed the contract in the UK. Many European states offer 10 days.

Having rights is one thing, being able to exercise them quite another. The safest thing to do is not buy at all.

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