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Consumer Rights - Returning Items

Consumer Rights - Returning Items

The Christmas period brings plenty of gifts- both wanted and unwanted. If you need to return items which are the wrong size, colour or just plain ugly, here are your consumer rights.  

Your Statutory Rights

  Your statutory rights are the rights you have as a shopper which shops can't argue with. These state that products sold must:

  • Be of a satisfactory quality, lasting for the time you'd expect it to and be free of defects
  • Be fit for purpose- it must be able to do what you want it to do. For example, a kettle should boil water.
  • Match the description given. This is especially relevant for online shopping. If the description says 'purple jumper' and it's a white t shirt, you have every right to send the item back.

These consumer rights apply to ALL items- even those bought on sale or with a discount voucher.  

Two Golden Rules

  Whether you’re returning items bought online or in shops, there are two golden rules:

  • Read returns policies (found online or on your receipts)
  • Read terms & conditions if shopping online


Shopping On The High Street

Returning Unwanted Gifts

Legally, stores do not have to accept returns unless the item is faulty or not as described. However, retailers do provide 'goodwill' returns policies which offer shoppers the opportunity to exchange, refund or receive a credit note for unwanted gifts. Over the Christmas period, shops will offer gift receipts which are the proof of purchase for items. If you’re returning items, you will either be given this by the gift giver, or will need to ask for this from the person who gave you the gift (awkward!)  

Returning Items Without A Receipt

What are your consumer rights if you want to return an item without a receipt? If the goods are faulty and you don't have a receipt, under the Sale of Goods Act, shops still have to repair, refund or replace the item, as long as you can prove you bought it in that shop and the fault is not due to a misunderstanding. However, if you're returning an item because it's not the right size and you don't have a receipt, shops are not legally obliged to give you a refund. Some will offer an exchange.  

Returning Items Bought Online

Contrary to popular belief, you actually have MORE consumer rights buying online than you do in store. This is because of the Distance Selling Regulations, which allow you to return something, even if you decide you no longer want the item. What's more, you can cancel an item bought online up to seven working days from the date you receive the items through the post. Always check the terms and conditions of sale.  

Returning Unwanted Gifts

If the gift was bought online it gets more awkward. The person who gave you the gift will need to return it.  

Returning Items Bought Online Without A Receipt

If the item was bought online and you don't have the receipt, you need to ask the person who gave you the gift to return the item.  

Items Lost

If you're buying items which are worth £100 or more, use your credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you have more rights when purchasing items using your credit card and can claim against the retailer or your bank for the amount you've spent if the items don't turn up. You need to contact the shop to enable them to investigate. If the items can't be found you could get a replacement or your money back. However, if the items are lost because you weren't in to receive them, then you are not entitled to a refund or a replacement.  

Damaged Goods

If you buy something from the internet and it arrives damaged you must contact the online shop where you bought the item as it’s their responsibility. You will need to prove that the goods were damaged during delivery. The online shop is then required to offer you a refund or a replacement.  

Items That Haven't Turned Up

Your consumer rights state that legally, items ordered online, via the phone, by mail order or from the TV must be delivered within 30 days, beginning the day after the order was made, unless a different delivery date was discussed. However, Christmas is a busy period and some retailers may not be able to meet their delivery deadlines. Should this happen, the shop needs to tell you before the delivery date. They should offer to rearrange the delivery date. If this does happen, don't feel obliged to agree. If you don't want to accept the delivery date, the item will be cancelled. If the shop doesn't arrange a new date, you're well within your consumer rights to cancel the order to get your money back. You need to write to the shop to explain that as the order has not been delivered within the expected time, it no longer exists and you'd like a full refund.  


If the order is late or hasn't arrived, you could be entitled to compensation. This would include the cost of having to cancel the order and use another shop and out of pocket expenses. However, before claiming check your terms and conditions. If they state that delivery times are estimated, or that they may vary, you may not have a right to compensation, and the store may not be held liable. To claim, write to the online store and ask them for compensation. You will need to provide proof of your losses.  

Broken/ Faulty items

Whether you bought the item online or in store, you have the same consumer rights if the item is broken or faulty and you don't have to cover the cost of returning the item. This information is offered as a guide only and no reliance should be placed on it. For more information, or for advice contact Citizens Advice

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