/ Shopping

What products do you return most often?

January is a pretty popular month for returning unwanted purchases picked up in the sales. So what are all these items that we’re returning?

Christmas has been and gone and in an act as traditional as carol singing with a steaming mug of mulled wine – I hit the sales.

Already some of my purchases will have to be returned. And it doesn’t look like I’m alone either, our research has revealed that six in ten of us have returned something we purchased in the last year.

The top two reasons for returns were that that the products were faulty or the incorrect product or size had been ordered.

We found that more than half of people returning faulty goods last year were returning electrical items like mobile phones, laptops and dishwashers. This was followed by clothing and shoes, then furnishing and home wares. Thinking about my own purchases, this sounds about right.

Using the new faulty goods tool

With our new faulty goods tool we’ve helped more than 1,000 people try to get a refund, repair or replacement for faulty items worth up to £1,188,073 over the Christmas period using our faulty goods tool.

The median average price of a product claimed for by users of the tool is £213, with claims ranging from £4.99 for a faulty nutritional supplement shaker, right up to £58,000 for an unsatisfactory static caravan.

Faulty goods: the post- 6 month problem

But what we found in the same survey was that just 13% of people knew that six months after purchasing a product the onus is on you to prove the fault was present at the time of purchase.

Inspired by comments on our previous conversation we decided to ask people how they would prove a fault was present at the point of purchase. We specifically asked what they would do to prove a fridge-freezer they had owned for 15 months stopped working due to a fault – and 68% said they wouldn’t know how.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the law doesn’t detail how shoppers can prove a fault was present at purchase, which can make it problematic when you’re asked to do so.

Guidance has tended to focus on getting an independent report from a repair shop or expert, but this advice dates back to a time when they were common on high-streets. I suspect you’ll be hard pressed to find one now.

What should you do?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. If you can find a repair shop or expert to undertake an independent report, it’s worth doing so as long as the cost isn’t out of proportion with the value of the product. It’s also worth checking that the retailer will accept the validity of the report.

2. Are people on social media complaining of the same type of fault as you? Or any reviewers or journalists? The more evidence you can collect to show that the fault is a problem which is affecting lots of people, the stronger your case.

3. If the retailer fobs you off, you could consider taking your case to the Consumer Ombudsman.

4. Do you have a guarantee or warranty? If so, check the terms of use. If you’re getting nowhere with the retailer, or if the retailer no longer exists, you may want to go straight to the manufacturer and make a claim.

Returning faulty goods can be a bit of a minefield so we hope that the new tool and these tips will help you out.

But we’d like to hear some of your experiences with returning items. So, what items have you found yourself having to return? Have you had prove a fault with any older purchases? And if so how did you get on?

Colin McLaughlin says:
11 August 2016

It would be helpful if you could say who pays the postage costs for the return?

I bought inner tubes which are unsuitable (too small), but returning them to Amazon is costing me £3-99. Your article doesn’t make clear whether this is for me to pay or there is any way to make the seller pay.


If you bought the wrong product then you have to pay to return it. If the product you bought was correct but defective then the supplier has to pay for its return and replacement [so long as it is returned within the permitted period]. Some companies allow the return of unwanted goods free of charge, and some allow a free exchange where the chosen size [etc] was wrong, but they are not obliged to. In your case the inner tubes are not unsuitable for the tyre size for which they were made and, so long as they were described correctly by Amazon, you cannot make them pay for their return.

Rachael says:
11 August 2016

I have a faulty laptop and have only used it a few times. I am just outside the 30 days. The shop is insisting they will just try and repair it for me but I would prefer to have a replacement. Do I have the right to demand this from them?


Rachael-From October 1st -2015 you have 30 days to return a faulty product after that time the supplier is entitled to repair it or replace it . If that fails then the consumer can demand their money back in full during the first 6 months , any unfair or hidden terms can be challenged – the Consumers Rights Act -2015.


According to the BIS explanation, up to 6 months the consumer chooses a repair or replacement (unless one is disproportionate to the other – yes, I know, just what does that mean? I think it might mean if a repair is out of all proportion to the cost of the item). If that fails the consumer then has the choice of keeping the goods at a reduced price or has a final right to reject for a full refund


Malcolm while not criticisng your post -vis-a-vis – BIS there does seem to be a conflict in law here . In normal circumstances the latest piece of legislation supersedes the former and the Consumer Rights Act Legislation is not a year old yet , any comment ?


The BIS document is entitled “The consumer rights act, Guidance for Business, September 2015” and is a commentary on the CRA. See pp 30, 31, 38.


Malcolm I am looking at the -business companion.info/en/quick-guides/good-practice/returns-policies#Consumerguarantees -and under -Cosumer rights summary – link to consumer rights summary (PDF 456KB ) it says exactly as I stated . I found the government website but there are not 31 pages and I dont see the time limits shown.


As far as I know the Department of Business Innovation and Skills document entitled above is 59 page document giving guidance to business on the use of the CRA. It should be accessible through their website and should be an authoritative guide to CRA. But I may be wrong.

My copy of CRA says
“24 Right to price reduction or final right to reject
(1) The right to a price reduction is the right to—
(a) require the trader to reduce by an appropriate amount the price the consumer is required to pay under the contract, or anything else the consumer is required to transfer under the contract, and
(b) receive a refund from the trader (in accordance with section 19(7) to (12)) for anything already paid or otherwise transferred by the consumer above the reduced amount.”

However, it is difficult to pick out bits without all the surrounding legal wording so maybe Which? should make a contribution and clear this up?