You’ve finally unwrapped that present under the tree that you’ve been dying to open.
Only it isn’t the gift you were hoping for, and instead you’ve received an item you could really do without.
So, what are your consumer rights when returning Christmas gifts?
Previously, James Walker, founder of consumer rights website Resolver.co.uk, gave us tips on how you can return unwanted presents bought online and in stores.
What if the item was bought in store?
If you buy an item and it’s broken or isn’t what you were told it would be, then you have a number of rights for faulty or misrepresented items.
However, if you want to return something that just isn’t your thing then the rules are a bit different.
Some stores allow you to return items with standard or gift receipts. The shop is allowed to set the rules and timescales for returning items that you don’t want, but they can insist that you provide the receipt.
If you weren’t given the receipt, you might have to confess to the buyer that the gift isn’t to your liking, in order to obtain it.
Alternatively, if you were given a gift receipt you can use this to make a return or exchange.
What if the item was bought online?
If you buy online, the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 gives you up to 14 days to return an item.
You’ll have to tell the business within that 14-day period, sometimes filling out a form to do so.
You’ll also need to return the item using a postage method acceptable to the retailer.
What if I want to return an item, but there is nothing wrong with it?
The good news is if the item was bought online or on the phone then you have 14 days to return it, this rule falls under the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013.
In-store purchases are a different matter and will depend on the shop’s policy. You can always call a store or check the retailer’s website for information on its policy.
What if the goods are faulty?
You’ve got lots of rights when it comes to goods or services that don’t work. However, there are certain time limits to bear in mind.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that you have 30 days, from the date the goods were purchased, to return the item if it’s wonky or isn’t as it was described.
You’re entitled to a full refund if the goods are returned within this 30 day period.
The money will be refunded into the account of the person making the return.
What if it’s over the 30 days?
If goods are faulty you have up to six months to return them – and the burden of proof is on the retailer to prove the item wasn’t defective or refund you.
They are allowed to have one crack at a repair or replacing the item, but after that, you can ask for a refund.
Even over the six months, all is not lost, though you’ll need to prove why you didn’t realise the item was damaged or that the problem isn’t just down to wear and tear.
Be prepared to compromise though, you could be looking at a repair or a replacement – and if the product has been upgraded since – you aren’t entitled to the newer version.
What if the provider of goods says the item isn’t faulty?
The key thing here is whether the goods are ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ or ‘as described’.
The latter option is pretty straightforward. Compare the item’s description with what you’ve got and if it’s misleading (not as described), make a complaint.
‘Fit for purpose’ is important to remember because you might not realise an item isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing until you’ve started using it – which might be some time after it was purchased. For example, if you’ve ordered blackout curtains that don’t actually black out the light, then you can argue they’re not fit for purpose.
‘Satisfactory quality’ is pretty subjective. For example, if you go to a restaurant and don’t like your food after eating it all you’re not going to get very far. But if you’d asked in advance for a vegetarian option, but one isn’t provided when you arrive, then you clearly haven’t been given what you wanted.
A good starting point is asking ‘does it do what it says on the tin?’ If not, take the time to explain why you haven’t got what you thought you were getting.
The items that cannot be returned
According to consumer group Which?, there are some exceptions when it comes to returning unwanted goods.
Many retailers refuse returns on DVDs, music and computer software if the seal or packaging has been broken.
In most cases, customers will also not be able to return perishable items, like foods and flowers.
If an item has been made to order, or personalised, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to return it.
Gift receipts allow you to take something back up to the date on the receipt. This can often be longer than your usual statutory rights, but as times get tougher on the high street, the time scales are reducing. So, don’t assume you have the same amount of time to return an item as you did last year.
The shop is allowed to set the rules and time frames for returning items that you don’t want but they can insist on you providing the receipt.
If an item is now on sale, some retailers may only refund you its current price – and not the same amount of money that the person who bought it paid. However, this is at the discretion of the retailer, and does not apply to every store.
A step-by-step guide to Amazon returns:
- Go to the Returns Support Centre, click Return a gift, and sign in to your Amazon account. If you don’t have an account you’ll need to create one.
- Enter the order number for the item you want to return. This is 17 digits long and can be found on the left side of your packing slip.
- Select the item you want to return and then choose a reason from the drop-down menu.
- Select your preferred return method.
- Print your label and return authorisation. Some returns won’t require you to print a label or authorisation. If you don’t have a printer when you’re completing your return, you can select the print later option (Amazon will email you a link to your label).
- Put the return authorisation inside your package and attach the label to the outside of it.
- If you’re the gift recipient, Amazon will process your refund as a Gift Card after your return is received. This will be added directly to the account.
- If you’re the gift giver, you’ll receive a refund to the original payment method. All refunds are subject to Amazon’s refund policies.
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