Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
So, Christmas is over for another year, and hopefully you’re satisfied with the presents you received.
But, let’s be honest, there’s one you probably don’t want, right? One gift that is either random, ugly or just plain faulty.
So can you get a refund?
Whether the gift was bought in-store or online, there are some pretty strong and clear consumer rights relating to returns: the 2015 Consumer Rights Act. This Act was updated to provide clearer shopping rights, especially when returning items bought online, including digital downloads.
Shops are required to take back goods that were faulty or damaged before you bought them. So if you take something home and discover it’s broken, the retailer must refund you.
Within 30 days of taking ownership, you have the greatest level of consumer protection. If any product falls short of the three criteria above, you can return with a receipt within 30 days for a full refund. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the 30 days starts from when the item was received by the purchaser (unless otherwise stated), not from when it was gifted to you. So, you may have less time than you think.
Just because you are outside of the 30-day window, it doesn’t mean you have to put up with an unsatisfactory, faulty, unfit for purpose or not-as-described gift. First, however, you must give the seller an opportunity to repair or replace the product. You can only claim a refund or discount if the seller’s attempt to repair the item is unsuccessful or they are unable to replace the faulty item.
As I’m sure we’ve all found out the hard way, faults sometimes take a few months to develop. One day your new vacuum cleaner suddenly loses it’s sucking power, for example. As long as it’s within six months of the gifter receiving the item, it’s assume the problem was always there and the seller is responsible for repairing or replacing the item. Of course, if you want to keep the product anyway, you can always request a discount on the item.
While trickier to prove, you can still make a return claim after six months. You’ll need to somehow show that the item was faulty when it arrived, which may require an expert report or other evidence. One common example is where there is a known fault across the entire range.
The maximum time to claim is six years after receiving the product and you’ll have to go through small claims court in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A bit of a hassle but potentially worth it for more expensive items.
Provided that you are buying from a UK-based company, you have exactly the same rights as a high street shopper.
As consumer goods increasingly come in digital formats, such as music, films or games, you may be wondering whether you can return these intangible products. Fortunately, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 also covers any goods sold as digital data. That means it still needs to be satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described by the seller. If not, you can return for refund, repair or replacement ‒ though you’ll need to keep in mind the same time limits on returns as physical goods.
What if you simply don’t like the item? Say it’s in perfect working condition, came as described, and works for its intended purpose, but it’s just not what you wanted ‒ can you still get a refund or exchange?
The answer is: it depends on the retailer. If you have the receipt, most retailers will still offer a refund or exchange for unwanted goods within a specific timeframe. Check the seller’s website for information on refund and exchange periods. Outside of those timeframes, there is no legal obligation to offer either a refund or exchange on an unwanted item.
For difficult retailers, it’s always worth mentioning that you know your rights under the 2015 Consumer Rights Act…that will sometimes do the trick. If they are being particularly stubborn and the item is particularly pricey, then it may be worth getting legal advice.
A qualified and licensed Paralegal is your best bet as they are cheaper yet do much of the same work as a solicitor. Just make sure your paralegal is registered with a professional membership body, such as the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), to ensure the best service as well as further buyer’s protection.
This means that it must be…
It goes without saying that products should live up to satisfactory quality, be fit-for-purpose and come just as it was described. And that includes digital content. Or course, you may not be aware of the description of a gift, so you will have to check with whoever gifted it to you.
If your gift doesn’t meet any of the criteria above, then you have a strong claim under the Consumer Rights Act. It’s also up to the seller to fix the problem, so don’t put up with any excuses about sending it back to the manufacturer.
If you buy something that doesn’t ‘conform to contract’ the seller is responsible, NOT the manufacturer.
So – you must complain to the retailer when you discover any problem with goods. Don’t let them fob you off by saying that you need to go to the manufacturers.
You can demand your money back within a ‘reasonable time’. This hasn’t actually been defined, but cover yourself by checking anything you buy as soon as you get it home. Complain to the retailer immediately if there are any faults.
If you miss the boat for a full refund (rarely more than 28 days after purchase) some retailers will offer credit notes, or replacements.
Within the first six months, a store still has to repair or replace the goods without charge, or offer a partial refund. You don’t need to prove that the item was faulty when you got it.
After six months the onus is on you – the consumer – to prove that the goods were faulty when you bought them.
All you really need is proof of purchase, so a bank statement/ cheque stub/credit card slip should be sufficient.
However, it will make your life much easier if you keep receipts for everything you buy and store them in a sensible place.
It’s helpful to attach receipts to the boxes of any goods you buy, so you don’t have to sift through hundreds of receipts.
It may seem a bit cheeky, but at Christmas and on birthdays try asking for gift receipts so that you can easily return any faulty items.
Shops will sometimes say that sale items are non-refundable – this isn’t true if the items are faulty (unless that was made clear before you purchased the item).
Whether an item is on sale or not makes no difference if the item turns out to be broken.
This is probably one of the most important laws to know about as a shopper. This law states that if you pay for something on your credit card that costs between £100 and £30,000 your card issuer is equally liable.
It doesn’t matter what you buy – if you use your card to pay for it and it costs at least £100 (to a maximum of £30,000) the company is responsible too.
N.B. You must have spent between £100 and £30,000, but do not have to have paid the full amount – even part of the payment, as little as a few quid, will suffice for a claim.
This sort of protection is especially important. If you buy something and the company goes under, Section 75 protection means that you can claim your money back from your credit card company.
It’s so important to use this protection for expensive purchases – and even if you don’t particularly need a credit card it may be worthwhile getting one just to use for this purpose.
If you’re wary of credit cards, don’t be – as long as you’re sensible you can use them to your financial advantage. Set up a direct debit to pay off the credit card bill every month and you won’t get stung by any charges.
Amazon – You have 30 days after purchase to return any item, in its original condition, for a full refund. Any seals must be fully intact and clothing must have labels still on. Items dispatched between 1 November and 31 December can be returned up until midnight on 31 January. Their returns policy reverts back to the standard 30-day period for items purchased after December 31.
Boots – Full refund with proof of purchase for all goods except food, cosmetics and medicine, within 35 days of purchase. You will lose any Advantage card points gained from the purchase.
John Lewis – John Lewis gives you up to 35 days to get a refund or exchange,
M&S – You can bring your purchases back up to 35 days from the date of purchase. The item(s) must be unused, in the original packaging and in a re-saleable condition.
Over the Christmas shopping period you have even longer: goods bought from 11 October can be returned up until 11 January.
Toiletries, cosmetics, bra accessories, earrings, food, bedding and made to order items including cushions and curtains are excluded from these ‘goodwill’ refunds.
Lakeland – They give you up to three years to make a return and get a refund! Plus all returns are free
So many major retailers are not expecting you to return those unwanted gifts within the first week of January. But do your bank balance a favour- take advantage of your rights and take back what you don’t want.