However hard we all try, there’s always going to be a Christmas present that just isn’t suitable. Whether it’s clothing that doesn’t fit, an item of jewellery that you simply don’t like, or you have been unlucky enough to receive an item that is faulty, you may wish to return something to the vendor.
This can be a minefield for those of us who don’t know how to return goods and don’t understand our consumer rights. Some people think they have an automatic right to return non-faulty presents bought on the high street, but this isn’t the case.
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Right to return?
If you’ve bought goods online, you have a 14-day cancellation period to change your mind and then return them, but there are all sorts of pitfalls that may mean you can’t do so – such as failing to keep the original packaging, right down to the cable ties. Even losing the paper instruction leaflet can be a reason the returns won’t be accepted back by some retailers!
When shopping on the high street, retailers don’t have to accept a return unless the item in question is faulty, unfit for purpose, or not as described. However, most of them will offer a returns policy as a goodwill gesture, particularly for Christmas gifts – they will offer a refund, an exchange or a credit note for the majority of returns.
Many of the big supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi offer a no-quibble refund policy, as long as the goods are returned in their original condition, with the receipt and within a specified timescale.
Many discount stores, such as B&M Bargains and Home Bargains, offer the same policy. By law, it’s not the given right of the consumer to demand a refund for gifts that are simply not liked. Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, you have more rights if you purchased online, by mail order or over the phone.
If you’ve received a present that you want to return, you’ll need the proof of purchase for a high street store, or the date the gift was ordered if purchased online. You’ll need to get the receipt from the person who bought you the gift, which may deter some people from bothering, as they may find it too embarrassing to ask.
If you’re returning online, the person who bought the gift may need to do it for you anyway, as they will have paid by their debit or credit card and possibly purchased by setting up a personal account.
Ask before you buy
It’s a good idea to check a retailer’s returns policy before you buy any Christmas gifts. Shops don’t have to have a gift returns policy, but those that do may offer different options, so it’s best to ask first.
If you’re buying expensive tech items and have chosen to go down the seller-refurbished or pre-owned option due to costs, check whether there’s a warranty, as this can vary wildly from store to store.
For example, games store CEX offers a massive two-year warranty on pre-owned consoles and hardware, such as headsets, while other smaller high street second-hand stores may only offer a 30-day warranty, or in some cases, as little as seven days.
If the returns policy isn’t displayed in the store, you can ring the customer services line to find out about its policy.
Retailers will normally impose a time limit for the return of goods that aren’t faulty. It is often 28 days, although some retailers will extend this to the end of January, for example, in the case of Christmas gifts. Always ask the individual store.
When you’ve paid by credit card, you’ll have additional protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. With the Consumer Contracts Regulations, when you’ve bought a gift online, your 14-day “cooling off” period begins from the moment you place your order. Then, once you tell the retailer you wish to cancel the order, you have an additional 14 days to return your item.
Items you can’t return
Most retailers will not accept certain items back, including DVDs, CDs and computer games and other software, if the security seal or packaging has been broken. This is because there’s a risk they could have been copied digitally.
Other items that some retailers won’t accept back if the seal is broken include mobile phones and tablets. If they are faulty, you may have to ring the customer services helpline to arrange an assessment and repair, rather than simply taking it into the store and asking for a refund.
It’s always best to check with the retailer before you make your purchase, so if you don’t like their returns policy, you can shop elsewhere.
Be aware of the key things you need before any retailer will accept a return: these include your receipt and the debit or credit card that you paid with. If you paid by cash, you will be refunded by cash, but if you paid by card, you’ll be refunded to the same card.
Depending on your bank or credit card company, a refund can take up to 48 hours to show up on your account, although the store must give you a receipt to confirm it has been paid back to you.
Don’t let any retailer fob you off if the goods you bought as a gift turned out to be faulty. The Consumer Rights Act makes the retailer responsible for selling goods that are as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
If the store’s policy prevents you from returning an unwanted gift just because you don’t like it, you can always sell it, either on an online auction site such as eBay, an online sellers’ site, such as Gumtree, or to a high street second-hand chain, such as Cash Converters or Money Traders.
Games retailers, such as CEX and Game, will also buy unwanted games from you, although even if the game is new and unopened, you’ll still only receive its second-hand value.
Are you happy or dissatisfied with any retail store’s returns policy? Review your personal experiences on Psydro’s customer reviews platform to tell other consumers how you were treated!