/ Shopping

Has an online retailer got your refund rights wrong?

online shopping returns

When it comes to returning a faulty or unwanted item you purchased online, you actually have strengthened shopping rights. But how clearly do retailers explain these rights to you?

If you’re looking to return an unwanted or faulty good you bought online, your first port of call will be the website from which you made the purchase – especially if the receipt and packaging has already made its way into the bin.

Whether in an FAQ section or as part of a dedicated returns and refunds page, most of us will search the website for clear and correct guidance on the timelines, remedies and conditions around returning their goods.

If the information is sparse, ambiguous or contradictory, you might then be tempted to give the retailer a call, start an online chat with it or – if you’re in the mood to do a bit of digging – delve into its T&Cs.

Invariably, you’ll find the information you’re looking for, but can you be sure that you’re not reading something misleading or limited to the store’s own returns policy?

Confused customers

In a recent survey, 53% of people told us they trust retailers to inform them of any rights they may have to cancel or return an unwanted or faulty product. But, as our recent investigation into the online returns information of retailers shows, this trust might be misplaced.

As part of the same survey, we also found that there is widespread confusion over returns rights in relation to warranties.

While 80% of people we asked could correctly identify their refund rights for faulty goods within the first 30 days, just 28% knew they could get a refund, repair or replacement if a product develops a fault after one year, even without a warranty.

Many also didn’t know that It is the responsibility of the retailer, not the warranty provider, to deal with faulty goods claims.

Clearer communication needed

Given the common confusion among shoppers around warranties and statutory rights, misleading online returns policies, such as those uncovered by our investigation, may prevent shoppers from effectively exercising their returns rights, leaving them out of pocket.

We believe that retailers must do a better job at clarifying statutory rights as separate to online returns policies to promote trust and safeguard consumers from faulty goods.

Consumers will need to refer to their statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act and Consumer Contracts Regulations on the occasions where a store’s returns policy falls short.

Have you had a good or bad experience returning goods purchased online? Was it made clear to you what your rights were? Did you come across any misleading or unclear information that contradicted those rights? Have you ever challenged a retailer presenting misleading or unclear information?


One grey area is extended warranties but only if you register a product.

Products that say they have a 5 year guarantee, but if you don’t read the small print and register the product, you only get a 1 year guarantee.

I had something that prominently displayed a 5 year guarantee on the box. It failed at just over a year old and I then discovered it only had a year guarantee as I hadn’t read the box properly and registered it. The manufacturer did replace it as a gesture of goodwill.

If a manufacturer is willing to give a product a 5 year guarantee, then give it and not make us jump through hoops to get it.

I bought a microwave on line through Amazon. When it arrived I found it to be seriously damaged. One side was severely dented as if it had been dropped. I sent an email to the retailer through Amazon and told them of the damage and requested a refund. They asked for a photo of the damage. I replied that when they got it back they would see the damage for themselves. However, they refused to collect it unless I sent photos. I subsequently sent photos by email, but couldn’t help wondering if this was legal and in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act. After receiving the photos they sent a courier to collect the microwave and a week later refunded my money. In your report you make no mention as to who is responsible for the return costs.

David, I think it quite reasonable for the retailer to ask for evidence of the damage before actioning a refund, and sending a photo is an easy way to do this. They should be responsible for all costs of returning it. Glad it was resolved though.

A few months ago I received an incorrect order from a company….some items were related to my order…most were not. I notified the supplier of the errors and they shipped out the rest of my order and advised that they would arrange a courier to collect the goods that were delivered in error. The courier could only collect during the week, so I stipulated a date I knew that I would be at home. I emailed the supplier a couple of days before collection was due asking if they could confirm a rough time. I’ve not heard anything back from the supplier, no courier turned up and for over 2 months now I have had a large box stuck in my hallway.
I understand from legislation that when a supplier sends out goods incorrectly, the customer should endeavor to return them, but what now? I have the email from the supplier confirming they would book a courier, but no courier turned up and no response to my email asking for confirmation of collection of time.
As a consumer…..now what should I do??

The items delivered incorrectly still belong to the trader and you are not entitled to keep them. However, you can give the trader a reasonable deadline by which they should be collected and if that is ignored I believe you can lawfully keep the goods. You should not be inconvenienced, nor should it cost you anything.

Thanks for response – I don’t want to keep the goods….and don’t have space to keep the box containing the goods in the hallway any longer. (It’s 3 foot by 2 foot) Will try the supplier again.

If they do not remove them then I’d suggest you sell them to get rid of them. I’d advise them of this action when you contact them, but I do not believe it is necessary.

I bought a bikini bottom from Jack Wills website. Didn’t like the colour when it arrived so never took it out the packet. Sent it back with other things. 5 days later I get the bikini bottoms sent back saying they are non refundable as Quality Control have noticed I have apparently made a mark on the crotch! I inspected it and there is a mark on the hygiene seal which I never made as I never took them out packet – disgusting! I also spotted they had overcharged me £3.00 as the price on the label did not match the invoice. They have agreed to refund the £3.00 but I am left with a soiled bikini bottoms that because I didn’t inspect when they arrived I am now paying for someone else’s hygiene problem. Can anyone help me as Jack Wills have been arrogant and rude on the telephone and emails just the same.

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Thanks for your comment. It was not sealed unfortunately and the bottoms were just scrumpled up. I don’t understand how it has managed to get passed round customers as the customer service department in an email openly admits it has been on sale before and seems for a while.

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I have a Garmin satnav in my car. I upgraded the map last November 2017. I found the new map was getting on for a year out of date because a new road, the Bristol southern link, was not shown and this road opened in January 2017. I immediately complained to Garmin, who said that Suzuki process the maps before issue and this was the reason it was late. I kept on complaining, pointing out that the map stated it was 2018 issue, and the fact it was actually nearly a year old should have been stated at the point of sale. Garmin pointed to one of its terms which said that software after installation was non-refundable – but I could not inspect the map before installing it. I recently found another major link road in Cardiff that is open which is not shown on the map, and there are other discrepancies like cut-throughs in roundabouts which were done well before I bought the map. Garmin totally refuse to even issue me a later copy when it becomes available.

The question is, do I have a case against Garmin and if so, how can I proceed to get them to refund me the cost of the map or issue me a map that is up to date to November 2017?

I would appreciate it if a member of the Which team could post a reply to this.

Hi Donald. Under the Consumer Rights Act, all products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described (this also extends to digital content).

From what you’ve described, you’ll probably find this guide very useful: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act

@gmartin, it would be useful if the excellent online Which? guides to the CRA also had links to the Act itself. For anyone capable of finding the right bit I would think it carries even more weight if the Act section is quoted to the retailer.

Malcolm and I have referred to a guide for business, from memory produced by BEIS and CTSI. Unlike the Consumer Rights Act it had no legal standing but it provided some useful detailed guidance on what can be expected of retailers. My link to it stopped working and I cannot find the guide online and I cannot find a replacement.

I had a printed copy of the first page and some of the contents but I think I gave it to a member of staff in a shop who was not being very helpful over faulty goods. 🙁 On other occasions I have taken printouts from the Consumer Rights Act and advice posted on the Which? website.

The information provided by Which? is excellent but it would be helpful to have a few Which? branded helpsheets that are easy to print (pdf rather than a web page) giving key information and references to the Consumer Rights Act or other legislation.

For example, many retailers ask consumers with faulty goods to contact the manufacturer and having a help sheet could encourage more people to reject this sort of suggestion.

I have a copy downloaded –
Issued by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills “Consumer Rights Act: Goods Guidance for Business September 2015.” but can no longer find it online either.

There was a much shorter, but helpful guide to SoGA produced by the OFT, of which I kept a copy.

However, I’ve found this a useful resource from time to time;

I’d like to see Whjich? campaign to have the essential consumer rights prominently displayed by all retailers with more detailed explanatory leaflets, produced independently, available on demand. Both customers and (at least) junior retail staff would benefit from knowledge of their legal rights and legal obligations.

Her’s a link to the Act http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/contents/enacted

I had a pdf file and now I have found the missing document: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/CRA-Goods-Guidance-for-Business-Sep-2015.pdf

I’ve used the other resource you mentioned, which made me think the Guidance for Business was also a joint effort.

In addition to printed information I would like to see all retailers have information about consumer rights on their websites, as Apple has done for years.

If you buy a product from a company from their website but it is supplied by a different company, who is your contract with?

In this case it is Auraglow and both they and Safield are ignoring emails to return a faulty product.

Safield Distributions Ltd is the name of the company. The website provides an address in Romford and a Romford phone number. I remember that Maplin used to sell the Auraglow brand.

Even some larger companies ignore email, so it might be worth giving them a ring to see if they will provide a refund or replacement. Best of luck, Alfa.

I will try ringing them on Monday, but I do like to have emails as proof and a record of proceedings.

I’d suggest the people who take your money are those with whom you have a contract. That should be apparent form your order confirmation/receipt. Auraglow’s website says:
Safield Distributions are sole importers and distributors for many of our (Auraglow) product lines that are forever changing. so if the transaction was with them, they are the ones to chase.

I agree that it’s worth having what is said in writing but in my experience a phone call can help move things along. I once made a claim against an exhaust fitter in writing and heard nothing. I made a phone call that was enough to achieve agreement to pay a partial refund, soon followed by a cheque in the post. While on hold I heard: ‘It’s a guy about the letter.’

A phone call did the trick, customer service couldn’t have been more helpful in sorting us out.

A shame the they ignore emails as it gives the customer a bad impression so you expect a similar response from a phone call.

I’m glad it’s sorted out but am increasingly concerned that organisations are making harder to phone them, expecting you to participate in live chat, which can be very time consuming.

Some offer a record of a live chat, which can be useful. glad it’s sorted alfa. 2/2 for business this week – 100% record.