Gifts bought on the high street
The assumption is that as a consumer you are automatically entitled to return goods to high street shops as long as it’s within a reasonable amount of time, and that you have proof of purchase such as a till receipt.
However, shops are under no legal obligation to accept goods if they are being returned because you don’t like them. The only reasons they are legally bound to accept returns under the Consumer Credit Act is if the goods are not as originally described, could be regarded as ‘not fit for purpose’, or are faulty. To make life easier for customers, though, most high street stores will accept returns and either offer an exchange or refund as a matter of goodwill, but they are not contractually obliged to, even if you do have the receipt.
If a retailer does have a returns policy, then you’ll usually have between 28-30 days to return an item and get a refund or exchange. Often, shops will extend this period immediately after Christmas, so you do have a few weeks to make up your mind whether you really do like that scarf or not. The time period for returns will vary between retailers so you will need to check with the individual retailer for any applicable time limits.
Proof of purchase
This can be a tricky one with Christmas gifts, especially if they’ve been bought for you by a relative. Opening a present on Christmas morning and then asking, “Did you keep the receipt?” will probably not be well received! However, there’s no getting away from the fact that proof of purchase is an important part of the process, and without it you may not be able to get a refund or exchange.
Bear in mind that if the present was bought using a debit or credit card then any refund will go straight onto that card, rather than to you. So your most likely resolution will either be a credit note or an exchange.
Does it have to be in the original packaging?
Technically no, but some retailers will only exchange or refund an item if it is returned in its original packaging. So keep the box your gift came in, just in case.
If an item is faulty then you’re on much firmer ground. Under the Consumer Rights Act as long as you return an item within 30 days of purchase you can do so without a receipt and still have the right to a full refund.
If you don’t want to return or exchange the item then you can ask for it to be repaired. You also have much longer to do this – up to six months. However, this only applies to the person who bought the item, and not the recipient. So if your iPod does stop working or your sports tracker stops tracking, ask the person who gave it to you to try to get the situation resolved directly with the retailer.
Presents bought online
Surprisingly, you may find that you have even more protection legally if your present was bought online, ordered over the phone, or was bought through mail order. Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, the purchaser has the right to cancel an order up to 14 days after it was placed. This ‘cooling off’ period extends up to 14 days after the goods are delivered, so there’s plenty of time for a recipient to change their mind and ask a purchaser to return the item. The purchaser can do this and expect a full refund, even if there’s nothing wrong with the goods.
Things you can’t return
• DVDs, CDs, games and computer software – most retailers will not accept these as returns if the packaging and seals have been broken.
• Make-up and toiletries – non-returnable for hygiene reasons
• Perishables – such as flowers and food
• Personalised items
If you’re having problems returning an unwanted gift to a retailer and you think they are refusing to comply with consumer protection legislation, contact Elisabeth on 01902 702097 or firstname.lastname@example.org