/ 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?

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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

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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.

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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?

It’s probably best to refer to the Which? guide to the Consumer Rights Act as a clear and well-written introduction to the law for consumers. Some minor redrafting is required but Which? are embarking on this. [http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act]

Their guide says “If an attempt at repair or replacement has failed, you have the right to reject the goods for a full refund or price reduction – if you wish to keep the product.” Which follows the BIS guidance.

Where do I stand with regards to a returns policy where a faulty product has already been replaced once and the replacement is also faulty but now outside the 30 day refund policy based on the original purchase date.

I purchased a clock radio with apple docking station online, but when there was a phone in the docking station overnight the clock would intermittently be incorrect by the morning. (which makes the alarm clock pointless)

On reporting the fault I was offered a replacement or a refund, I decided to give it another try and go for a replacement. However the replacement also had the same problem. I’ve had this replacement unit for around 10 days but the date of the original purchase is now outside the 30 days mentioned in the returns policy for refunds.

So basically my question is should the returns policy be based on the original purchase or the date I received the replacement?

Simon, in the first 6 months from date of purchase you can opt for a repair or full refund if the first attempt has failed. Quote the Consumer Rights Act 20125 section 24.

Hi, I was wondering if anyone could help. I bought a Samsung 48 inch TV from Currys yesterday and tried to return it today because it was faulty. They dais they couldn’t do it because I needed an uplift number from Samsung and their offices were closed (it was 7pm). I was told to take the TV back, obtain an uplift number and return to the store tomorrow. Is this correct or should they have just offered me a replacement/refund there and then because of my right to reject?
Thanks in advance.

Thank you Malcolm

Yo contract is with the retailer, not Samsung, so Currys should deal with it as far as I am aware.


I have bought a Tent from Trespass which was faulty.

I Called store who said that they didn’t have any in stock but I ‘may’ be able to get a replacement from the Birmingham store (which is a big inconvenience). When I asked cant they order one into store for me they said it was not possible due to seasonal changes?? I then asked for the Customer services number.
I was told that I could return the item free of charge for it to be inspected and replaced if found to be at fault, this sounded perfect! Then he told me that the tent was out of stock and that I would have to settle for a refund. I didn’t want this because we got the tent on sale from £90 down to £35. There was no chance I was going to find another tent that size for that price based on the refund. So i asked for them to issue me a credit note for the purchase of a tent at full value to which they refused.
I then said cant they exchange it for a product of the same quality and size to which they answered that that it had to be the exact same product……..

So know I’m left with a dilemma, Travel the 1 hour journey into town to get the replacement (which they may not have anyway). I’m not keen of this as I have already been inconvenienced with a broken tent on holiday. Or send it into customer services to be refunded the £35 to buy a new tent elsewhere whilst adding the £70 extra to make up the difference to actually buy one….??

In my view if they can supply the same tent they should be making special arrangements to do so…?

Whilst I can appreciate that they in perfect circumstances no on this would be an issue and Trespass have made some attempt to rectify I do believe they are doing the bear minimum or am I wrong and they may be required to go further than what has been described?

My take is they are correct in telling you that it should be replaced with the same product. However if you chose a refund that could be set against another product.

You have a choice between a repair, refund or replacement if the item was faulty. It makes no difference in principle that the item was bought in a sale. It will however depend on why the tent was on sale at a reduced price; if it was substandard, and you were made aware when you bought it – marked say -then you would not expect a perfect replacement. If it was only reduced in price to encourage a purchase then a replacement seems fair. I’d check with other stores in the group to see if they do have stock. If so my belief is that the retailer should replace the item; it should be done at minimal inconvenience to you – they should obtain the item from another store – and the faulty item should either be collected from you or, if convenient, you could take it back and collect the replacement.

Julie says:
24 August 2016

Hi I have purchased some school uniform and was told it could be swapped if it was not the correct size. I have taken it back to exchange it for smaller sizes to be told they are out of stock and the blazer won’t be available until APRIL! The owner is telling me it is again the laws of v.a.t to give me a refund? She has offered a credit note valid for 6 months but I need to go and get the uniform from another shop .

I bought a car from AJ Autos in Bournemouth and in 2 weeks there was a brake problem. They had the car for 3 weeks and I had to pay towards repairs. After 5 months, there was another major problem with the engine, they said it was outside the warranty so they were not responsible. It cost me over £2K to repair and they are unwilling to pay for it or support me in anyway. I’ve done everything to get them to do the right thing. I’m now having to take them court. They are saying the Consumer Rights Act came into effect after I bought the car, which it did, but surely I still have rights as a consumer? Two major problems with a car in less than 5 months?

We bought a carpet for the Hall, stairs and landing from Carpetright in January. Since the fitting, every riser on every step has become badly rubbed and worn. Carpetright say the carpet is a cheap one and not recommended for stairs! No one said it wasn’t recommend for stairs at the time of purchase and there is nothing saying that on the website plus there are reviews on their website from people who have bought it for stairs so they are happy to sell it to you and take your money. The salesman has looked at it but says there is nothing they can do . It is in my 5 star holiday cottage and my guests are commenting on it

No carpet, at any price should, start to show heavy wear in just nine months [and in a holiday cottage not occupied full-time over that period]. However, it is difficult to know where this problem sits within the protections of the Consumer Rights Act where the price, and the product’s description, do have a key bearing on the expectations.

The main evidence in such a case would be the label on the back of the sample in the showroom as well as the description given on the website. In my experience the carpet labels tend to say where they are suitable for rather than where they are not suitable for and the retailers have a very nuanced interpretation. To say a carpet “is not recommended for stairs” is correct if use on stairs is not included in the list of suitable places, but that is not the same as saying the carpet should not be used on stairs or is not suitable for stairs, which should have been stated in your case. If [as you must have done] you made it clear at the time of purchase that you wished to have the carpet laid in the hall, landing and on the stairs Carpetright should have cautioned you about the possible unsuitability of that type of carpet for your staircase and advised you to select a suitable alternative since you had expressed that as an essential criterion for your purchase. On those grounds, in my opinion, your carpet is not fit for purpose and you should ask Carpetright for a refund, and persist against their resistance. Do it in writing and take some photos of the worn carpet over the nosings. Since you wish to have the carpet on the stairs matching the carpet in the hall and landing do not accept a partial remedy. Reviews on websites could have been fabricated for all we know.

I am not recommending this as a solution since I think you should pursue Carpetright all the way, but if you want to make your stairs look more presentable while you battle it out with Carpetright, you could try to have the stair carpet lifted and repositioned so that the worn edges are tucked into the angle between the treads and the risers, and unworn parts of the carpet are then covering the nosings. The success or otherwise of that will depend on the geometry of the staircase as it could just make it worse in appearance if the worn patches appear at random on the treads and risers; there could also be a shortage of carpet with some patching required. A thicker underlay might also help protect the carpet on the edges.

I hope you get somewhere with Carpetright and I hope you will come back to Which? Conversation and tell us how you got on.

Tim Craner says:
22 September 2016

I know that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives me 30 days to reject a used car (bought from a dealer). After that…up to six months…I am entitled to a repair.
How do I stand when an issue has been reported to the dealer well within the 30 days, but the time wasted in trying to secure a repair or resolution from them and the AA warranty has taken us well over the 30 days from date of purchase.
The car had a significant gearbox oil leak which was reported 11 days after purchase. The dealer referred me to the warranty company who told me to take the car to a local Halfords Autocentre branch. They diagnosed the source of the leak but said it was not a job they could do. I reported this back to the warranty company & was told to take the car to a garage of my choice, which I did. There then followed a “catch22” situation whereby the warranty company would not authorise the repair until the gearbox was fully stripped down and the full extent of the job was known, but once this was done, the car would have to be rebuilt anyway. The issue turned out to be two leaking seals and the warranty company refused to pay stating that this was wear and tear.
I was left with a car in pieces on a ramp that the garage needed back in use, so paid for the work myself…£553.00.
The dealer is resisting payment citing an unauthorised repair.
Two further issues, of an engine oil leak from the crankshaft and a leak of coolant from the air conditioning compressor were identified by the garage completing the gearbox repair. Since both are likely to be seal leaks, it would appear that they too will not be covered by the warranty.
I have lost all confidence in the car and its mechanical condition. Can I still reject the car.

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It would seem that the car was not of the quality described and was unfit for purpose. The dealer who sold you the car should have dealt with it comprehensively and not forced you to go running around the warranty provider and alternative repairers. Your problem is they didn’t and now will not refund your costs for putting the vehicle into the position it should have been in when you bought it [having regard to its age and the price you paid]. You should write to the seller and assert your rights under the law and state that you will take legal action (a) if they don’t honour those rights, and (b) for purporting that you don’t have such rights. Don’t look for further compensation for trouble and expense but insist on repayment of the £553 you have spent on repairs which were necessary because they refused to undertake their legal obligations. Presumably you have the invoice for that work.

You do not mention if the buyer is expected to pay the costs of return for a faulty goods bought on the internet.

From section 23 of the Consumer Rights Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/contents/enacted

(2) If the consumer requires the trader to repair or replace the goods, the trader
(a) do so within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience
to the consumer, and
(b) bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so (including in particular
the cost of any labour, materials or postage).

It’s the retailer rather than manufacturer that is responsible for dealing with faulty goods.

If the goods are faulty when received you can reject the goods and get a refund.

The BIS document for business about the Consumer Rights Act says:
“If a consumer rejects goods, you are responsible for all reasonable costs of returning the goods to you unless the goods are being returned to the place that the consumer received them (for example, returning them to the shop in which they were bought). If the costs incurred by the consumer are more than a reasonable amount, you are still responsible for paying the reasonable portion of those costs.”

I can see no distinction between on-line or shops.

Some time ago, I bought a small item from an Amazon Marketplace trader and it was quite different from what was shown in the photo. After much messing around I secured a refund but both the trader and Amazon refused to pay my £2.80 return postage. I thought about taking legal action but decided it was not worth it for the price of a pint of beer.

Marketplace can be a tricky maze to navigate. I’ve encountered the same attitudes but have always refused to pay if the item isn’t working correctly, and have always got them to pay – eventually.

It was a test purchase, made to confirm that the Marketplace trader was supplying a different product from that advertised on the Amazon website. I feel that since the goods are sold on the Amazon website, Amazon should be responsible for traders that refuse to comply with the law. In the past few years I have bought very little from Amazon.

hi bought a canon eos 1200d have had it10 moths paid extra insurance on it and it is faulty i am sending it back should they replace with new one or will it be a repair what are my statutory rights thanks nick

I bought a jawbone exercise steps tracker called a UP3. the rubber became faulty. CUrry’s agreed to replace it but they say because the exact model was not available (also called a UP3 – exactly the same device really, but has a slightly different design), they said I had to pay £10 extra as the replacement item is £10 more than the purchase price of my original item. They can’t replace the original like for like because it is either out of manufacturing stock or possibly out of production.

Is it fair to charge this £10 additional fee?

They have the option of refunding you the original price, which amounts to the same thing. However I would have thought a goodwill gesture would have been a free of charge replacement.

I had the same experience with Comet, the former electrical retailer. I asked to speak to the store manager and the £10 difference in price was waived. One of the problems is that spare parts are often not available, even when products are new, so simple repairs are not possible.

We bought a two seater and a three seater suite with reclining seats in the three seater from not just Sofa’s in Swindon in August this year and the recliners have failed the seats have sunk and you can feel the springs from under. The company will not refund our money and trying to fob us off on a new lounge .

According to the Consumer Rights Act (which superseded the Sale of Goods Act in Oct 2015) if a product becomes defective in the first 6 months after purchase it is presumed the fault was present at the time of purchase. The CRA then requires the retailer to either repair or replace the item – if that is possible or economic – at the customer’s choice. You are not entitled to a refund. If, however, this is not possible, of if the repair or replacement also prove defective, then a full refund can be claimed. So in the first instance the offer of a replacement sofa is legally a solution. That is my understanding of the CRA.

malcolm r. You are not giving the correct information. You are not giving clear, concise accurate information and I would ask the owner of the website to remove the post given by malcolm r as it may confuse people seeking information on how to procede with their problem with retailers. As far as the sofa is concerned the defect became apparent within 6 months therefore it is assumed it was there when Paul Elliott took delivery on day one and Paul is entitled to chose the remedy which is full refund of his money or repair or replacement. The retailer does not dictate the remedy in Paul’s case. Paul can exercise his rights in law and choose his own remedy.

In my experience many retailers are fully conversant with consumer law and the rights of consumers but when a claim arises they feign ignorance. The objective of the retailer is to not refund one penny to the customer (and to delay things until the 30-day period has passed) and the retailer will spout forth with all sorts of imaginary laws and rights of consumers and rights of retailers. Many consumers are taken in as they are not fully conversant in these matters. And why should the consumer be experts in consumer law? The consumer has a legitimate complaint and expects to be given his money back for faulty goods or repair or replacement. With regard to the time scale involved, whichever is applicable. I know of some retailers who will instruct solicitors to write to customers to intimidate the customer into accepting the retailer’s terms. One case that I recently advised on as a layman involved a solicitor running up a bill of over £600 in fees when the customer was claiming £960,30 from the retailer. It was clearly an attempt at intimidation on the part of the retailer (there was more) the case went to court. The retailer settled on the last possible day before court but forgot to pay the 30 pence. This resulted in judgement by default against the retailer because the full amount was not paid. The retailer had to pay the 30 pence he forgot to pay plus another £55 in costs plus interest and a County Court Judgement against him. The retailer wholeheartedly deserved this. During the period that the claim was in the court the retailer terrorised the consumers in their home, in one instance sending a member of his staff to park in the middle of the road outside the consumer’s house with his hand pressing constantly on the vehicle horn button. Banging on the customer’s windows and swearing and shouting at the consumer through the letterbox.

mnevis, I am quite happy for Which? to amend my comment if it is inaccurate. However, I was repeating information given in the Goverment’s BEIS document explaining the Consumer Rights Act in its Guide for Business. It says that if the fault is discovered in the first 30 days the customer can reject and obtain a full refund. If it is outside 30 days, but inside 6 months from delivery, the customer can choose between a repair and a replacement. If neither can be done, or the repair is ineffective, the customer can then choose between keeping the goods at reduced price, or receiving a full refund. See the flow chart on p 38.

This is what I said above. No doubt Which? will correct this if I have misunderstood the guidance.

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May I add that the seller is not responsible for providing a remedy if there is evidence that the seats have been damaged by misuse, for example caused by teenage kids jumping on them. However, it is the responsibility of the seller to provide evidence if the goods are less than six months old.

Paul Elliott

The below is where stand, I think, in relation to your faulty suite.

“If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish tf you are outside the 30-day right to reject, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital content which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

You can choose whether you want the goods to be repaired or replaced.

But the retailer can refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared to the alternative.

If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product. “