At some point in our lives, we’ve all had to return a purchase we’ve made. Whether it’s a t-shirt that’s the wrong size, a faulty toy, or it’s simply the wrong gift, returning something should be relatively easy. However, sometimes it seems like the rights aren’t on the consumer’s side. In this blog, we’re going to look at how returns work, and how to overcome any problems when returning something.
Returns aren’t a legal right
That’s right – there’s no law that says retailers have to accept returns. This may come as a surprise to many of you, however shops, both big and small, are under no legal obligation to accept returns. There are three exceptions to this:
- the item you’ve bought is faulty
- the item isn’t as described
- or it’s unfit for purpose
Otherwise, you have no automatic right to return a purchase!
Goodwill returns policy
Although it’s not a legal obligation, most retailers choose to provide what’s called a “goodwill returns policy”. Goodwill returns policies usually offer an exchange for a similar items, a full refund or a credit note for most returned items.
Now, if an item is faulty, fit for purpose or not as described, you do have the right to take it back and ask for a full refund, as long as you do so within a reasonable time period. Most retailers will offer a standard 28-day returns policy.
What about returning items bought online?
Due to the nature of online or distance shopping, and the fact you can’t try an item before you buy it, returns online work differently.
If you bought something online, over the phone, or by mail order you have additional rights. You can return it under the “Consumer Contracts Regulations”. Under these regulations, you are entitled to return the item and get a refund within 14 days. This 14-day period can be from the time the online seller gets the goods back, or from you providing evidence of having returned the item. For example, a proof of postage receipt from the post office. Normally the 14-day period depends on whichever happens first.
Just remember, the seller can only make a deduction from your refund if the value of the item has been reduced as a result of you handling it. For instance, if you damage the packaging on opening, or scratched it accidentally. A good rule of thumb is that the item should be returned in the exact same condition you’d expect to buy it in.
Are there items you can’t return?
There are some exceptions to online returns and to goodwill policies. Here they are:
- DVDs, music and computer software. Many retailers refuse returns if the seal or packaging has been broken.
- Perishable items. You won’t usually be able to return an item if it’s perishable. This includes food and flowers.
- Made to order items. If an item has been made to order or personalised it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to return it.
How to return a gift
You usually require a few key things to return a purchase:
- A receipt – Always keep your receipt and take it with you when asking for a refund. If you’re buying a gift for someone else, include the gift receipt so they can change it if they need to. Ask for a gift receipt from the shop. It is not automatic.
- The card you paid with – If you paid for an item with a credit or debit card, take it with you when you return the item. This is especially important if you want a refund, as it will be credited to the card you paid with.
- The original packaging – You will need to bring all the gift’s original packaging with you.
We hope that’s helped with any returns that you might need to make. We’ll be continuing this series of everyday advice blogs over the next few months. If there are any subjects you want to know about, let us know via email, on Facebook or Twitter.
If you need advice or encounter a problem this New Year avoid further stress and give our lawyers a call on 0203 002 4898. Or, you can email us at [email protected].