/ Shopping

Returning Christmas gifts – don’t get your rights wrong

It’s the big hunt for the receipt! Christmas gifts have been exchanged and now it’s a trek back to the shop with unwanted presents. But before you join the long customer services queue – do you know your rights?

First, don’t assume you’ll be allowed to return your present.

High street shops don’t have to give money back just because you’ve changed your mind, or in this case, because you don’t like a Christmas gift. It’s down to their own policies and they do tend to vary.

Some shops will fully refund you, while others may offer vouchers or an exchange.

Take the receipt, if you can

If you don’t have the receipt you may not get the full value for the unwanted present. This has happened to me several times. A shop may only give you £20 for a jumper that originally cost £40 without a receipt. Their excuse? You might have bought it in a sale.

However, I personally find asking friends and relatives for Christmas gift receipts quite difficult. I imagine they probably trekked around for hours to pick out something just for me (unlikely!).

Still, it’s best we all get value for money, especially in today’s tough times. One of my relatives is famous for responding to presents with: ‘That’s lovely… can I have the receipt?’. While a colleague told me that his family has a Boxing Day ritual of exchanging receipts.

A week to cool-off online

If you shopped online, you may have more rights. For those really late shoppers, you could still be entitled to the extra cooling-off period that online shoppers enjoy.

When you buy anything from a website, over the phone or by mail order you are entitled to an automatic seven-day cooling-off period. This will give you time to return your gift, as long as you’re still within the seven days.

Again, it’s worth checking each websites’ individual policies, as some will even let you send back unwanted presents several weeks after the cooling-off period.

Keep your gifts intact

To get the best result, don’t ‘unwrap’ your gifts. The shops want to re-sell returned items, and so most won’t take back DVDs and CDs where the packaging or seal has been broken. And remember, you usually won’t be able to return anything perishable, so enjoy those chocolates. The diet will have to wait until next week!

However, if you’ve been given something that’s faulty, you do have the right to send it back. Thanks to the Sale of Goods Act, you can insist on a refund, but make sure you act quickly.

Don’t be fobbed off by shop assistants telling you to go back to the manufacturer with your guarantee. The contract is between the customer and the party they paid, which more often than not is the retailer.

Persist, persist, persist

Finally, at the end of the day, it’s worth being persistent! As well as your actual shopping rights, remember that the manager can use his or her discretion.

After arguing for over half-an-hour in the middle of a shop, the reluctant manager gave me £80 for a broken phone (to the relief of an embarrassed husband). I’ve even resorted to emailing company CEOs, which has also been successful at getting goodwill payments. The best result was £40 and a emailed personal apology from a Chief Exec… for a pot of jam!

So, many happy ‘returns’ from everyone here at Which? – that’s if you’ll be taking any of your Christmas gifts back to the shop…

Lawyers from Which? Legal Service will be on hand to answer your retail related consumer queries from 1.00-3.00pm on Thursday 29 December. Sign up for a reminder and take part on Which.co.uk or on Facebook.

David says:
23 December 2014

Girlfriend does not like earrings that i have purchased for xmas. Any hope of refund?

If they are still in sealed packaging you might be lucky but for hygiene reasons, retailers are likely to refuse a refund on earrings.

david says:
23 December 2014

I bought hair straighteners for wife only to realise she already has them .they haven’t been taken out the box can I get my money back