Many of us will be buying gifts for friends and family on the high street and online this festive season, but are we clear on our rights as buyers if we want to return an item?
Behind the scenes, Hampshire Trading Standards officers work hard to keep us all safe from the perils of shopping pitfalls, so here are some top tips to have in mind when you’re buying goods this Christmas.
I want to return my goods, what are my rights?
If you buy goods that are faulty, not as described or unfit for purpose, you have the right to return them.
Goodwill returns policy
Most retailers choose to provide a 'goodwill' returns policy offering an exchange, refund or credit note for most returns.
If your item was bought online, over the phone, or by mail order you have additional rights to return it under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
Returning faulty goods
If a product you’ve bought develops a fault you could have the right to a refund, repair or replacement.
Check returns policy before you buy
You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy.
It's worth noting that shops aren't required by law to have a returns policy, but if they do have one they must stick to it.
But you're only entitled to an automatic refund if you return it within 30 days, otherwise you can must give the retailer a chance to make a repair or replacement.
Returns policies are usually displayed on receipts, on signs in-store and online.
If you paid by credit card, you also have extra protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
The items that can't be returned
Most retailers have policies which stipulate that they will accept non-faulty returns, as long as items are unused and in perfect condition with their undamaged original packaging.
But there are some returns exceptions worth knowing about.
- DVDs, music and computer software: Many retailers refuse returns if the seal or packaging is broken.
- Perishable items: You won't usually be able to return an item if it's perishable.
- Made to order: If an item has been made to order or personalised it's very unlikely that you'll be able to return it.
What do you need for returns
Depending on a retailer’s returns policy some will only exchange or give you a credit note, while others will give you a refund. But all shops usually require a few key things, including a receipt, the card you paid with and the original packaging.
If you have no receipt
If you simply change your mind, the retailer has no legal obligation to give you your money back, should you return an item without a receipt. However, many stores will offer an exchange or credit note, so it’s always worth asking.
If your goods are faulty and you don't have the receipt, you still have the same rights to a repair, refund or replacement as under the Consumer Rights Act.
Shopping in the January sales
What are my rights when I shop in a sale?
Returning non-faulty sale items
You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy. Shops don't have to have a returns policy, but if they have one, they must stick to it.
Returning faulty sales goods
If you buy something that's faulty, regardless of whether you bought it in a sale, you have the right to return it under the Consumer Rights Act.
Sale and non-sale items must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
You have the right to claim for a refund, replacement or repair if sale goods are faulty. A retailer cannot try to limit this right in sales.
If you're returning something faulty you bought in a sale within 30 days you should be reimbursed the full amount you paid.
Returning sale goods online
If you buy items in an online sale, you have additional rights to return them under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
You are responsible for returning the goods within 14 calendar days, and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after the return of the goods (or after evidence is provided that they were returned).
You can also cancel your order for goods bought online anytime from the moment you place your order up to 14 days from the day you receive it.
Now you know these top tips, let friends and family know too so you can all be aware of your rights in the shops this festive season.
You can also take a look at Hampshire Trading Standards website for more advice on buying consumer goods.