Being hit with a cancellation charge when returning goods can be a shock, but if you know your rights you may not have to pay it…
A Which? Legal member came to us for help after he tried to return a £2,626 dining set and was told he’d have to pay a cancellation charge of £950.
Mr Jones and his wife ordered six dining chairs and a table from Branstons Garden and Home by phone on 30 October 2015. The furniture was delivered on 23 January, but the chairs were much heavier than the couple expected and they decided the set was unsuitable.
Mr Jones contacted Branstons on 26 January and was told then of the £950 charge, which he considered excessive.
Our advice on cancellation charges
As he had entered the contract at a distance, we advised Mr Jones that he had a right to cancel and get a refund. But a refund would be minus the amount to cover any loss in the set’s value while he owned it, or for the cost of its return.
We advised that he ask the shop for a breakdown of the cancellation fee and why it was so much.
Branstons told him it was for the loss in value and the cost of the return. However, Branstons’ terms and conditions said that a customer had seven days to return unwanted goods. In fact, if you buy goods online or over the phone you have 14 days from the day you receive the goods to return them.
As Branstons incorrectly stated the wrong cancellation period, it wasn’t allowed to make any deductions from the refund due.
Branstons accepted this argument and asked Mr Jones to only pay the delivery charge. He agreed to this, and was refunded £2,556.
Your returns rights
Your right to return unwanted goods bought at a distance (online or over the phone) within 14 days is covered under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, although some types of contracts are excluded by these regulations.
Under the regulations, the trader can normally charge you the cost of returning the goods and for any loss in their value, subject to their terms and conditions (some retailers may cover the cost of the return as well).
But if the trader doesn’t give you details about what the cancellation period is, how long it lasts and how you should go about cancelling, it can’t then charge you any fee.