Consumer protection and rights: what are your rights when shopping and returning goods?

Learn how consumers are protected so you’re not out of pocket

Consumer protection and rights: what are your rights when shopping and returning goods?
Published: December 13, 2021 at 12:32 pm
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How often have you taken back a faulty item or something that wasn’t quite what you wanted, only to be told the store doesn’t do refunds? Knowing your consumer rights means you can get the outcome you are entitled to…

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Any goods you buy must be of satisfactory quality as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time. According to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, if something is faulty you can get a full refund within 30 days – this is called your ‘short-term right to reject’. After that time, you have fewer rights and may only receive an exchange, repair or part-refund.

When a product becomes faulty within six months after purchase, the shop must prove that the goods weren’t faulty when it sold them. After that, the onus is on you, so always act quickly.

If you buy an item then change your mind, shops aren’t under any obligation to take goods back, unless faulty. Most, however, will give credit notes or exchange items for something of the same price.

Sale season usually comes with its own rules, which are individual to the store. Always ask at the till point or read the small print if buying online.

Buying online gives you more rights, due to Consumer Contracts Regulations. This gives you 14 days to cancel an order and a further 14 days to send most goods back for a full refund, even if there’s no fault.

A lost receipt doesn’t mean you can’t return something. All you need is proof of purchase, such as an itemised bank statement.

Remember that your agreement is with the shop you buy from, not the manufacturer, so it is up to the retailer to sort out a problem.

Spend gift cards as soon as you can. If a store goes into administration, they can stop accepting gift cards, even if still open. In that event, you may be able to exchange your gift card for one for the outlet it was purchased from.

Do I have to accept a credit note?

If the item isn’t faulty, then you have no legal rights to exchange or refund. If the store policy is a credit note then that’s all you’re entitled to. Check any restrictions as to how and when you can spend it. If a product is faulty then you are legally entitled to a full refund.

Are there any benefits to paying with a credit card?

Yes, there are! If you pay for anything over £100 on a credit card the card issuer is jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong, thanks to Section 75 laws. You could find this is a good way to get a refund if your retailer is not playing ball or goes under.

Can I return something that was a gift?

Technically, no, as it’s the person who bought the item that has the contract with the seller. However, most shops will do a gift receipt at the point of purchase, so if you have one these, you should be able to get an exchange. If it’s faulty, then payment will be refunded to the buyer’s card.

Useful contacts

•  Visit gov.uk for all the legal information on consumer rights, while which.co.uk has the lowdown on the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

•  Get advice on any disputes that you can’t sort out at citizensadvice.org.uk.

•  For free, impartial advice on consumer rights, head to ombudsman-services.org.

•  There is also plenty of expert advice at advicenow.org.uk.

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Top image credit: Getty Images

Authors

Hayley Gilbert is an award-winning interiors journalist with 25 years' experience writing about everything from blissful bathrooms to the coolest kitchens. Publications she has written for include Good Homes, Country Homes and Interiors, House Beautiful and The English Home.

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