/ Shopping

Do you know your Christmas shopping rights?

Christmas shopping online

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are nearly upon us, and thousands of us will be using these sales events to hopefully cut the expense of Christmas gift shopping. But do you know your rights when it comes to buying online and on the high street?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are fast becoming the most popular shopping days in our calendars.

In fact, UK shoppers spent more than £3.3bn over the Black Friday weekend last year.

But, according to research published by Clear Returns, as much as £180m of those purchases were returned within days – that’s £1 for every £18 spent. And in a recent Which? survey of more than 2,000 shoppers, half said they’d returned something they’d bought in the past year.

Online or offline – what are your rights?

Surprisingly, for a nation of returners, we also found that just three in ten of those surveyed knew you have different rights when shopping online than on the high street.

With most online orders you have 14 days to let a seller know you no longer want an item, you then have a further 14 days from that date in which to return the item to the seller.

In store, however, you’re at the mercy of each shop’s own returns policy, unless your product is faulty.

So, if you’re going to get caught up in deal hunting on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, you’re probably best placed doing it online. That way, you’ll be better protected should you make a rash decision or two that you later regret.

Test your shopping rights know-how

The average UK family spends just over £800 on Christmas. But if anything goes wrong it can pay to know where you stand and how to put things right.

Before you hit the high street or hammer the online sales, take our quiz and test your knowledge. Let us know how your score stacks up.


Do you know your shopping rights? Has a retailer ever tried to fob you off?


Hey, I’m a shopping rights guru! You haven’t wasted your time on me, Which!

But I did get this wrong: “If you buy a smart TV and the pre-installed software stops working within 30 days from when you receive it, you can reject the TV and get a full refund”. I thought you would just be told how to re-instal or repair the software somehow. Anything to get away with not refunding.

I must have learnt something from my years with Which? with a full correct score. I thought the answer to question 4/7 didn’t quite fit the circumstances somehow.

Let’s have this as a downloadable document that we can print off and carry with us on our shopping expeditions [or as a postcard slipped inside the next Which? Magazine].

Well, I didn’t wish to brag but having banged on about using SoGA and CRA on so many occasions I was relieved to be a 7/7. Question 4 is a good resolution; if a repair is not effective you can opt for a replacement but may have lost confidence in the product so a refund is a sensible option. And if software fails why should you have to go through all the trauma of trying to reinstall it; someone else caused the problem and should deal with it professionally. If it fails on a quality issue you should have the right to a full refund.

We need to use the rights that consumer law gives us but we need support to do that, in both understanding our rights, knowing how to pursue them and forcing certain retailers to stop (illegally) avoiding their obligations. Early problems such as discussed above are only part of our rights.

We also have the right to expect products to last a reasonable length of time, given their price and that they have been used properly. It is high time information was given to consumers to enable them to pursue “durability” claims when they arise. This is particularly so when products fail not long after their guarantee expires but well before their expected life should expire. Several Convos illustrate how consumers have been hit by this problem. I spoke to a Which? staff member at the AGM who told me he had had such a failure but not pursued a claim, simply replaced it. That’s all wrong that people should feel they can only do that. So I’d like Which? to address consumer rights under CRA in a much more active way.

Malcolm – I agree that Question 4 is a good resolution, but the answer given is not as clear as you have provided in your explanation. I won’t repeat the given answer here but I think your version is better, more comprehensible, and much more helpful.

I found you could get 4 out of 7 by just hitting the same button every time – but I won’t say which one!

Some years ago (many years ago?) Which? produced a smart little card detailing all our SOGA rights, which was wallet-sized and ideal for flashing at the obstructive manager. Rather useful it was, too.

We need some more challenging questions, Adam.

You are quite right Adam. I often bring up consumer issues when chatting to people and it’s amazing how little people know about their rights. If we could only get Which? to help a few of its subscribers to take on companies that deny us our rights it could make a very good TV documentary.

We already have Rip Off Britain, Watchdog, dispatches and similar programmes. The danger is that they’ll want to sentationalise a topic to make a point rather than simple explain our rights and give sensible examples. Education rather than incitement, but that makes for less entertainment.

We need real action to improve the consumer’s lot. Someone mentioned making it a requirement for all retailers to prominently display an official notice outlining consumers rights in their shops, – and also perhaps distributed with all on-line purchases, not just on websites. We need retailers prosecuted when they deny consumers their rights – that should wake the offenders up to dealing properly with customers. Which? can help with this with its lobbying, parliamentary contacts, its legal powers, helping customers through Briefcases and Which? Legal. But it needs approaching in a considered, balanced and professional way, not by sensationalising it.

That is exactly what I have in mind for a documentary. For a TV programme to be of popular appeal, you might have to compromise a bit on the presentation style.

I would hope that Which? would be well remunerated for providing quality material.

A manual Carpet Sweeper has broken after only about 6 months when trying gently to extricate it from under a door, when it snapped like a matchstick with no apparent force applied. It was the integral plastic piece linking the base with the broomstick part. What would seem like a fair approach. The manufacturers say I would need to return to the family Ironmonger I bought it from locally.

The manufacturer is correct; your contract is with the retailer you bought it from, unless the problem is covered by their guarantee and you have chosen to make a claim on that. You would be needing to show that there was a weakness on the product that was a fault- either a flaw in the component or a component that was not adequate for the job (poor design of inadequate strength or inappropriate material for example). With plastic components a flaw might show up as a void in the moulding or a sign that the plastic has not flowed properly into the mould. If it is simply too weak this might be hard to prove without expense but a reasonable person might recognise it as deficient. I’d suggest you approach the retailer in a polite and reasonable way and make your case, quoting the Cionsumer Rights Act that requires a product to “be of satisfactory quality”. Quality of goods includes
– freedom from minor defects (such as marks or holes)…..
– durability
and ” be fit for purpose”.
As floor sweepers generally are expected to be pushed under furniture they should be resistant to stresses when they are being used like that.

Jean – I suggest that you do approach the retailer since most retailers are happy to sort out problems within the guarantee period. They can make a claim against the manufacturer, of course.

Despite UK consumer protection law, I have (on a couple of occasions) found AmazonUK extremely difficult to deal with when returning faulty items after Amazon’s intitial return period has expired. Their customer service pages appear designed to discourage this and when you finally achieve contact, they will try hard to make you deal with the supplier/manufacturer. In the case of items they simply handle for smaller businesses, it can be almost impossible to get things repaired or secure a refund and Amazon has what amounts to a “couldn’t care less attitude.” It also seems that Amazon has an undisclosed policy of closing the account of anyone who returns too many items or makes too much of a fuss about things.

That doesn’t surprise me, Bill. Amazon’s reviewing facility is tightly constrained as well so that justified negative feedback about Amazon Marketplace traders is not accepted. I rarely buy anything other than books and music from Amazon now. For domestic products and hardware I try to track down original sources and companies that have a shop-front and a reputation to protect.

Jason says:
11 December 2016

I purchased a Christmas gift for my 9 year old son from a high street retailer on cyber Monday after being shown and explained a deal as advertised on the in-store advertising monitor as described in a copy of the email I sent them below:-

“Hi, I was shown a deal for the package as per photo of my receipt on the in store advertising monitors that was selling at £179.99, and this was the price that the sales person quoted. All through our discussion, which was lengthy, this was the price quoted. The salesperson couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly and explained everything in great detail and answered all queries I had, and I ended up taking the extended cover as a result also. I have no issue with ANY of this, my only gripe is that a week later when I was eventually getting round to wrap this Christmas gift for my son did I notice that the total charged seemed to be more than I remembered it should have come to. I was definitely shown a deal on screen of £179.99 and this was figure that was discussed, but after cyber Monday discount applied it appears to be £199.99. Can you please confirm if there was a £179.99 deal on the above package on the date in question??? Anyone up until now that I have contacted from Game has been unable to find out information of previous deals other than those current and on the website. I have pointed out that Game MUST have a central database with such info in order to protect consumers rights should such a query or incidence arise. Many Thanks!! ”

I eventually received an email response which I’m rather astounded by shown below. Surely this retailer cannot be allowed to operate in this fashion??

“Hi Jason,

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately there is no way of checking as to whether or not that deal existed.

However Cyber Monday deals are online only and do not apply in store, this may be why your instore purchase was more expensive than the offer advertised online.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

The deal in question was in-store as displayed on their advertising monitor and not online, but regardless, surely they should be aware of what deals they offered to their customers??

It’s well worth printing a copy of web pages showing discount prices or saving the pages as pdfs. I have used this as evidence that a product was sold with a free extended warranty.

It might be worth calling at the store you bought the monitor from and the staff may remember the price offer.

We recently purchased a bed off a well known website. We had no notice of delivery so I contacted them. I was told that the manufacturer would contact me directly for delivery details. 2 days later I arrived home from work at 11pm and found the bed had been dumped outside the front door in the pouring rain. Water had got through some holes in the packaging. I ran g to complain and was told they would give me a 10% discount as a good will gesture. Am I entitled to a new bed or a full refund?

If you have notified them promptly that the bed was received damaged then they must refund or replace.

Almost certainly, the terms Darren will have agreed to will insist that problems are notified promptly – probably within 24 hours.

It’s always useful to take photos and protect goods from deteriorating further. The contract is with the company that took the money and they are responsible for the manufacturer and delivery service to do proper jobs.

I went to purchase a iPod which was advertised in the catalogue to £129.99 and when I went to buy it they told me it was a printing error and it was actually £149.99 what am I expected to pay

£149.99 and hopefully they will apologise for their error.

If you buy from a Christmas fair vendor, what happens if the item needs to be returned or exchanged?

I bought a silver (925 silver) locket and chain for a friend and I wasn’t sure if the chain was going to be big enough or too big.

Also, I wasn’t given a receipt, which I felt that the vendor should have given me at point of sale.

You have the same rights at a market as in a shop but the retailer does not have to replace an item or give a refund if it was sold in perfect condition. So far as I am aware, receipts are not mandatory at the point of sale but you must be given one on request. If the Christmas market is still trading you can return and speak to the trader but the chances are it will be gone by Christmas Eve. The organisers of the market should have a list of stall holders and might help you trace the one who sold you the locket and chain. The local council should have details of who organised the market. If the chain is too long that will not be a problem because any good jeweller will be able to take some links out to shorten it. If the chain is too short you might have to buy a longer chain unless the links are of a common pattern and new matching ones can be easily inserted. If you need to buy a longer chain you might be able to negotiate a part-exchange with the original chain. Let’s hope it fits perfectly and full gratitude is shown.

I brought my husband and pair of slippers which turned out to be too tight for him. Had the receipt but shop would not exchange because he had worn them. (Only worn to see if they were ok) . They said they were not resellerable.

Hi Pam, that’s annoying. Did the slippers look worn at all? Had the labels been removed? Under the Consumer Rights Act you should be able to return goods that aren’t fit for purpose or of an unsatisfactory quality – more on this here: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act#30-day-right-to-reject

Have you tried to complain to company on their social media channels? Many of these channels will help with customer service, I’ve successfully complained to a retailer on Twitter before after a store rejected a return. Alternatively you could call its customer service telephone line.

I bought a coat online using a promotional code and returned the item within 7 days of receiving it. The company are now saying I am not entitled to a refund, only online store credit. Reading the Consumer Regulations I don’t think they can do this. Am I actually entitled to a refund?


I bought two items of bed linen from a local store at a special price on Black Friday. Without opening the packaging it was clear when I got them home that they were the wrong size. When I took them back to the shop a few weeks later to exchange them for identical items of the right size I was asked to pay extra. Is this right? After all the shop now has the original items which it can resell at full price and I’ve lost my Black Friday discount.