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Are retailers honouring COVID-19 returns policies?

Many retailers announced extended COVID-19 returns policies, but are they being honoured? We want to know if you’ve been refused a refund.

Did you receive a faulty item during lockdown? Or is that exercise bike you optimistically bought back in March still sat in its box?

Now that shops across the UK are reopening, you can avoid the dreaded Post Office queue and make your returns in-store.

But are all retailers honouring their extended COVID-19 returns policies? Or are you battling to get your money back?

Refused a refund?

Most retailers extended their returns policies when stores shut back in March.

If you’ve got a return to make, it’s well worth double checking what the retailer’s policy is.

Some, such as Argos and Tk Maxx, allow customers 30 days once stores have reopened to make returns, while others such as Debenhams and Sports Direct offer 14 days.

Here’s what other major retailers have been offering

If you think any retailers aren’t honouring their updated policies, or if you’ve had trouble making returns in-store, we want to hear in the comments below.

Your return rights

Online shopping has understandably surged throughout lockdown – here’s what you need to know about making returns:

🔷 You have the right to cancel an online order at any time from the moment you place it, up to 14 days from the day your goods are delivered (though most retailers have extended this window during lockdown).

🔷 If you’ve been sent an item that’s faulty or not as described, you have the right to reject the item and get a refund within 30 days of possessing the goods (again, this window will have been extended by most retailers).

🔷 If you’ve owned the faulty item for less than six months, the retailer must give you a full refund in an attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful.

🔷 You should get a refund within 14 days of the retailer receiving the goods back, or you providing evidence of having returned the goods whichever is sooner.

🔷 If the retailer has offered to collect the goods, it should refund you 14 days from the date you informed it you wanted to cancel the contract. You don’t have to wait for the retailer to collect the goods to get your refund.

Courier nightmare?

Some retailers offer a courier pick-up service for unwanted items, which can be useful for those self-isolating or not wanting to leave the house.

Have you faced any challenges arranging a pick-up? Or have you been forced to wait a long time for the money to reach your account?

Again, we’re keen to hear of any courier horror stories you might have.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve had issues with retailers honouring their new returns policies.

Comments
Colin says:
20 July 2020

There seems to be a number of retailers refusing to accept returns and give refunds until the end of August 2020. Examples are Screwfix, Eurocarparts. Both have told me they will not accept my returns either by post or in-store. It is great they have extended their returns window and policy but not great that I cannot get my money refunded until the end of August.

Colin – I guess this is not because of a reluctance to part with money, but more as a result of a risk assessment on the safety of handling customer-returned goods during a virus epidemic.

Colin says:
22 July 2020

Maybe, John. I guess unused brake pads are at the lower end of risk given the current level of lockdown. Afterall shops are open, goods are being handled by customers and staff constantly and PPE is in place according to risk assessments. Companies like Amazon, John Lewis, Tesco, PLT, ASOS, etc. have all got comfortable with the returns process and their risk assessments. Most companies put returns in an isolation area for a period of time to reduce the risk, most use PPE to reduce the risk. I totally understand when in full lockdown but given the current state of lockdown it does not seem reasonable to me to suggest that a returns process cannot be put in place for such goods until the end of August at the earliest. I would certainly hope this is not for cashflow, inventory, profitability or cost-saving reasons.

I agree with you, Colin. It is not unknown for risk assessments to be used to justify expedient policies.

I couldn’t understand why Screwfix were only doing click-&-collect and withdrew the delivery option until recently; it seemed to me to be more risky to open their outlets than handle sales [and returns] under controlled conditions.

I have noticed a number of suppliers have given ‘overwhelming demand’ as a reason for ending on-line sales, which seems perverse to me. Surely they are not frightened of the implications of the Consumer Contract Regulations which provide more generous cancellation rights than for shop sales and allow rejection if the customer has merely changed their mind?

I have noticed products that are no longer available on-line and can only be bought in-store, John Lewis being one of them. That does mean they will not get my business for the foreseeable future.

Companies are mistaken if they think this will encourage people to come out of lockdown and into their stores as there are always on-line alternatives.

There apparently is a problem at John Lewis with only about a third of people visiting the store actually buying from there. The remainder are just going to browse and then go home and buy it online. This was actually the case even before lockdown.

Guilty as charged Beryl. I like to see and feel products before I buy especially if they are expensive purchases.

I rarely go into a John Lewis store as it’s a bit of a trek to get to one so look and choose in other stores, then either buy where I look or online from John Lewis. It rather depends on the product.

John Lewis usually gets my custom by price matching and extended warranties. Buying online gives you an electronic receipt less likely to get lost or fade and I don’t suffer aches and pains from lugging heavy shopping around.

Any company that stops you shopping from them on-line is going to lose out – big time.

Primark have resisted selling on-line and they are doing well. Their reasoning is that the tendency for people to order a number of items, try on the ones they like, and return the left-overs is too costly for their low-price operation.

I was very surprised that John Lewis had listed its new Birmingham store for closure because it is under-performing. The West Midlands economy must be going through tough times if they are having to close a flagship in our second city. Closing a number of stores is John Lewis’s answer to the competitive situation especially, as Beryl says, since they are being used as showrooms for customers buying elsewhere. They cannot extend their ‘never knowingly undersold’ policy to the on-line competition. For major purchases like furniture and appliances there is a lot to be said for buying from a reputable company if things go wrong – although that benefit is in the up-front price. But can you put a price on good service?

I just hope they don’t close their Norwich store which is just a ten minute walk away. They carried out a major refurb there recently and it is such a great place to shop that we rarely go anywhere else for domestic things, electricals and homewares.

I recently purchased a Panasonic bread maker online for my daughter from Curry’s. The same model at John Lewis, Amazon and Argos was £30 more expensive than from Curry’s, which I thought was worth pursuing, despite it’s dubious selling practices, already the subject of much debate on Convo. It was a click and collect arrangement that was quick and without hitch as my daughter lives a good distance away from me.

If you do your research before buying its not always necessary to visit a store, the exception being of course if you are shopping for clothing or shoes which you need to try on. The bread maker was the same model that I have so I knew beforehand it was a Which? Best Buy and worth buying.

I agree with John it would be great pity to lose our well established and reputable high street stores, especially those whose after sales are worth paying a little extra added to the price. I make a point of never shopping at Curry’s usually but on this occasion I decided to take a risk. So far the bread maker is churning out quite an interesting variation of loaves, much to the pleasure and delight of my daughter and her hubby.

why do Retailers not Inform the public where Appliances are made I.E. Luxor televisions made in Turkey Hotpoint Fridge Freezer Also Made in Turkey

I guess this is not required by EU regulations. However many products do state their country of origin but some don’t.

Perhaps the retailers think it would harm sales to reveal the origin of some products. “Made in the EU” is a common euphemism.

“Made in England” became a problem label on many manufactured goods some years ago and was gradually dropped. “Made in PRC” is frequently used to disguise Chinese products nowadays.

None of this should matter of course; the technology is there to enable manufactured goods to be identical irrespective of where they are made or assembled but public opinion, based on incomplete knowledge, drives prejudice and, in terms of marketing, cannot be ignored.

I was wondering why Palmolive soap products are permanently out of stock. Turns out they are made in Turkey.

I believe there might still be some UK-made soap products available – but not many.

Palmolive’s profits go back to America. I suspect there is a geo-political problem at the root of the Turkish connexion.

My dad has used Palmolive soap for as long as I can remember which is why I never really thought about it and just assumed it was an old British product. If I can’t get some for him soon, he will have to try something new. 😲

I remember when I was very young being taken to see my (honorary) aunt Florrie who lived in the Port Sunlight village, a model village built by William Lever to house the workers at his soap works. He was (among the) first to produce soap made from glycerine and palm oil, instead of animal tallow. A hugely successful venture that exported bars of soap all over the world. This was Sunlight Soap.

The site is now, I believe, home to Unilever R&D.

Apparently “modern chemicals” have now been used to supersede this original soap formulation, in products such as Dove Which I happen to use. When I was younger we alternated between Pears and Wright’s Coal Tar.

My limited enquiries show that neither Pear’s, nor Lifebuoy, nor Fairy, nor Sunlight, nor Imperial Leather, nor Wright’s Coal Tar soaps are made in the UK any more. Turkey seems to be the soap capital of the world now and I expect that is where the own-label soap sold by high street chemists and the supermarkets is made. It does seem ridiculous having to transport such a weighty product thousands of miles to Western Europe but I suppose it could have been worse.

In the old days, of course, Sunlight soap was transported all around the world from the Wirral. IPA (India Pale Ale, mostly water) was designed to last the long sea journey from Burton to…. well, India.

Nothing changes, does it. Transporting goods long distances has been with us for ever and I expect will stay.

However, I would like to see a reduction in international transport by producing more at home. Vegetables from Kenya and Israel? Flowers from Chile? Lamb from New Zealand? Chicken from Thailand? Vacuum cleaners from Malaysia?

COVID produced a huge reduction in air pollution from transport. We should capitalise on that as a real step in helping the planet recover. A “produce more at home” campaign perhaps?

You are right, of course, Malcolm – but it’s alright for British exports to be transported long distances to meet demand elsewhere for our superior products [and the ships didn’t come back empty], but we shouldn’t import goods that we can manufacture here!

India Pale Ale was brewed for the British in India and elsewhere in the empire. I don’t know whether it caught on with the native population but the British eventually set up a brewery in India brewing Lion beer which became a popular Indian drink. In the spirit of reciprocation, I believe there is now a brewery in Burton-upon-Trent brewing Indian lager for sale here.

Self interest John. 🙂

Marks & Spencer

I had a return for M&S I had bought online. The order summary gives you 4 free and easy ways to return an item from within the UK.

A friend offered to do option 2:
Simply Food & Foodhalls
You’re now able to return your online order to our Simply Food or Foodhall (excluding BP, WH Smith, railways stations, MOTO service stations, hospitals and airports). Just bring your returned item(s) in the original packaging or other similar bag, remembering to include inside your completed returns form and hand it to a colleague in store. Refunds can take up to 10 days to process. We’ll give you a tracking receipt so you can track the progress of your return if you want to. No returns form? In that case you’ll need to return to one of our clothing and home stores where you’ll receive a credit receipt for the last known price. Credit receipts are valid for 12 months.

She tried to drop it off in the foodhall of a large M&S store but was told to go upstairs to customer service. Customer service ignored the returns form and would only credit the item back to my credit card (not an option) or issue a Credit Receipt.

So now I have what looks like a till receipt for £22.00 that has to be used in a store with a year and will no doubt get lost before I go in an M&S again.

Bad customer service M&S.

Emma says:
21 July 2020

I bought a laptop from currys, it was delivered 24th june, I quickly realised it was faulty so informed currys of this on the 25th. It took until 20th july for them to collect it. In the meantime I should have been in hospital for a 2 week stay for shoulder rehab during lockdown but this was cancelles. The hospital got in touch & said they couldn’t say how long I would be waiting if I wanted to do the inpatient stay but they offered a 3 week virtual shoulder rehab done through video calls starting 27th July. Currys are aware of this, they know I cannot do the virtual shoulder rehab without a laptop yet today they have said it could take up to 14 days for a refund. So because of currys incompetance in taking so long to collect the laptop I may have medical treatment delayed even longer

KEITH BARNARD says:
21 July 2020

On 6th July I followed the link sent to me by British Airways in an email they sent me on 4th June cancelling my flight to and from Florida.
For more information, and to rebook yourself onto the next suitable flight or view your other options, please go to Manage My Booking.
On arriving at that page I was presented with 2 options
Cancel Booking or Change Booking
I chose Cancel Booking and was immediately told I had chosen a voucher.
I did not choose a voucher – I was never given the option of choosing anything.
I wanted a refund but that option had not been made available to me.
I telephoned B A and was told twice that as I had chosen a voucher, it could not be changed to a refund.
The advisor I spoke to told me that this was happening to “hundreds of thousands of customers”.
I raised a complaint with B A that day but have still had no response.
A voucher is useless to me as my son (who is on the voucher) cannot make the trip in the near future and certainly not before its expiry date.
The email I received from BA on June 4th encouraged me to make changes online and at no point said I had to call if I wanted a refund.
At no point was I told that by clicking on CANCEL BOOKING, I would not have the option of claiming a refund.
This is totally unacceptable – I appreciate that these are difficult times and that it’s better for BA to issue vouchers rather than refunds but I feel this is being engineered in a totally unethical manner.

I have come across a particularly disingenuous returns policy by Boohoo.com and Boohooman.com. They separate their returns process and contract cancellation process, in order to deliberately catch out the majority of consumers who do not have a detailed understanding of Part 3 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

In order to receive a full refund, including any original delivery charge, the consumer needs to cancel the contract, and most online retailers automatically cancel the contract and refund the full order charge if one returns all items. However, although these two web sites have easy returns processes, they deliberately do not make it obvious that their returns process and contract cancellation process are separate and that one needs additionally to cancel the contract (using an onerous PDF form) in order to receive a refund of the original delivery charge. Therefore most consumers will not realise that they need to cancel the contract separately only after the 14 days have expired, and they do not receive a refund of the original delivery charge.

I hope Which? gives prominence to this dirty trick.

So much for Boohoo’s mock indignation over allegations that a supplier was underpaying employees at a garment factory when it is itself engaged in unscrupulous acts against its customers.

Companies that have chosen to go down the internet road should not object to the consumer obligations that go with on-line selling. They know the rules; it goes with the territory.

NFH says:
22 July 2020

I complained to Boohoo. One point they made in their response is that ASOS does the same.

I complained to Boohoo. They replied that ASOS does the same. I see this is true: https://www.asos.com/customer-care/order-issues/how-can-i-cancel-my-order—consumer-contracts-regulations-2013/

The asos form doesn’t seem too onerous, so at least that’s not a problem, although frankly. a simple email stating name, address and order number would suffice, I’d imagine. But demanding official cancellation as well as returning the items is simply trying it on, in my view.

Lucy Houghton says:
29 July 2020

Wonder if anyone can help me. I purchased online some material to make curtains. It arrived on a roll as it was 8m worth. When I started to cut the material for the curtains halfway through the roll I found 3 holes. I cut the rest of it as it was for 2 pairs of curtains but am now 2m short to complete the second pair.
I contacted the retailer within the 30 days and they have told me they are waiting to hear from the manufacturer as to what happens. I thought the contract was with the retailer and they should replace the faulty material? I have also been told that as I’ve cut the material I probably won’t get a refund. Does anyone know if this is true?

Clare says:
30 July 2020

I tried to return to items to the Flannels’s store in Liverpool last week and made the 60 mile round trip specifically to do so & was refused – I could exchange but not return online items in store. I contacted customer services by email, who just said if it was purchased online, I had to return it by post with me paying for the cost of a tracked parcel.
I again pointed out that this was not what it said on the website about items purchased during lockdown, only to receive another reply that I could return to store as a good will gesture.
Really confused and disappointed with their response.

ken fletcher says:
2 September 2020

I was refused a refund at my local Motormania store some 6 weeks ago, and was told to wait until after the pandemic is over!! I explained that this could be many months and was advised to just keep my receipt and come back later. I returned today to see if they have amended their returns system, but sadly not. No returns accepted for the foreseeable future. Surely consumer rights are being abused here.

Hi Ken – I suggest you make a polite but firm complaint and give the company two weeks to make a refund. If you paid by credit or debit card it may be possible to recover your money by following this advice from Which? https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/can-i-claim-on-my-credit-card-when-something-goes-wrong