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Know your rights when returning goods


When things go wrong and purchases need to be returned, it’s crucial to know what you’re entitled to.

Girl with shopping bags

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: you tear open a present on Christmas morning, only to find that it doesn’t work, it doesn’t fit – or you simply don’t like it. 

But while millions of people will try and return a faulty or unwanted gift in the New Year, many will encounter problems when attempting to get a refund. So what exactly are your rights when it comes to taking things back?

What if you just don’t like the gift?

Legally, consumers do not have the right to take back goods just because they have changed their mind – or because they don’t like it. 

However, many stores do offer a “no questions asked” returns or exchange policy, so the best advice is to check with the shop; many will give a refund, exchange or credit note as a gesture of goodwill. 

If the person who bought the item got a gift receipt at the time of purchase – and if you can produce this when you go to return the goods – this will improve your chances of success. 

Also note that while most stores require any returns to be made within 30 days, many retailers are far more flexible around Christmas, and will often extend the return period. 

What if the item is faulty?

If a gift is faulty, it needs to be returned to the shop it was bought from, as the purchaser has a contract with the shop – and not the maker.

You should try and return the item as soon as the fault is discovered to avoid any complications – and ask for an exchange or refund. 

If you have a manufacturer’s warranty, you can contact them as well as the retailer. 

You don’t need a receipt to get a refund for faulty goods – although you may be asked to show proof of purchase with a credit card slip or bank or credit card statement – so the purchaser may need to be present.

What are my rights if you buy something online?

When buying online, you have the same rights as if you were shopping on the high street. This means you have the right to return goods if they are not “fit for purpose”, as described, or of satisfactory quality. 

Further, when you buy online, you also benefit from a “cooling off” period from the date you receive the goods, with the right to a full refund without having to give a reason for the return. 

If you received the product as a gift, and want to return it, you will need proof of purchase, and will also need to know the date the gift was received by the buyer. 

This seven day cooling-off period also applies to goods bought by post or phone. 

There are, however, some exceptions, and this cooling-off period will not apply if the goods were perishable or personalised, or if you have opened the packaging on a CD, DVD or computer game, or removed the label from an item of clothing. 

Also, check the site’s conditions as to who is responsible for paying for postage and packaging in the event that an item does have to be returned – this should be clearly displayed. 

What protection is offered by paying by plastic?

Finally, if the purchaser has paid for the gifts by credit card or Visa debit card, this gives added protection when it comes to claiming money back.

 This is because, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, the bank or building society can be held jointly liable if things go wrong. 

For more information on consumer rights visit Consumer Direct, the government-funded advice service, at


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