/ Shopping

Do you know the returns policy in your favourite high-street store?


Reckon you know the in-store returns policy in your favourite high-street shops? What about the ones you don’t frequent as regularly? Surely, there’s just one rule for all, right? Wrong.

On the high street, your rights can differ from store to store.

In a survey conducted in November, we found most shoppers (74%) were unaware of this.

Six in ten (58%) either incorrectly believed they were legally entitled to a refund if they changed their mind about a non-faulty purchase made in store, or didn’t know whether they were or not.

Only four in ten (41%) shoppers knew they weren’t guaranteed a full refund if they bought an unwanted item in store.

Policy change

And to make matters even more confusing, occasionally stores change their policy.

Last week, we noticed that clothing retailer Forever 21 had updated its in-store policy to allow customers to get full refunds on unwanted, non-faulty items within 30 days from the date of purchase.

For years, non-faulty items bought in its stores could only be exchanged or it would give you a credit note towards your next purchase.

Reflecting the desire of its shoppers to be able to return an unwanted item in an unworn condition, it’s now joined an already established cohort of big-name high-street brands offering generous returns rights as part of their in-store policy.

Knowing your rights

It isn’t always clear what a high-street brand’s in-store policy is and how it differs to the additional consumer rights shoppers enjoy making online purchases either.

Many stores don’t place information about their policy in prominent places, such as on their website or at the tills where you can clearly read them.

But it’s important you know how to find out about your consumer rights and how to exercise them should you change your mind about a purchase.

As most shops on the high street aren’t required to have a returns policy for unwanted non-faulty purchases in store, make sure you check the store’s returns policy so you don’t lose out if you change your mind.

You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer allows it.

Most shops’ returns policies have time limits for returning non-faulty products, often 28 days. But sometimes they extend this period – especially at Christmas – so you might have more time than you think. Check when you buy.

If you buy online, you have additional rights in relation to non-faulty products under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Have you ever been caught out by a store’s returns policy? Do you think there is more shops could do to make their in-store policies more visible?

bishbut says:
24 January 2017

Why buy if you do not want or need the purchase ?? If you are not sure it will fit or want just to try ask before you buy if you will be able to return it People?


If buying something I’m not sure will be suitable, I always ask if I can bring it back for a full refund. If you don’t say refund, you could be stuck with a credit note.

If a shop says no, and I say I won’t buy it, they very often change their policy as long as I return it quickly as they don’t want to lose a sale.

The main thing is to always be polite and friendly.


Years ago, I bought a jacket and it wasn’t until I got home and tried it on someone noticed the back was very uneven.

I returned it to the shop but they refused to refund my money. There was nothing else I wanted, so I had to accept a credit note.

The shop closed down a few months later before I could spend it.


I agree with Bishbut. I’m not keen on buying goods that have been taken home and returned to a shop. When buying from DIY shops I check packaging carefully, looking to see if the packet has been carefully opened and resealed. I have found parts missing and evidence of use on more than one occasion.

I had heard of people buying clothing, wearing it once and then returning it. Here is an article: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/05/wardrobing-returning-worn-clothes-fashion-return-fraud-stores I thought that this happened only with women’s clothing but I have smelled fragrances emanating from wooly jumpers in menswear departments. Maybe this is from people trying them on, but maybe not.

I wonder how much refunds and exchanges add to the cost of goods.

The usual reason I return goods is because they are faulty, and I know my rights under the Consumer Rights Act.


If you buy online you might find the product is not as expected when it arrives, does not fit even though you ordered your normal size for example. So it is quite reasonable to expect to be able to return goods in pristine condition for a refund. Those trading online know this has to be a factor in their business model.

If you buy in store then you have every opportunity to inspect the purchase and make a decision. If, when you get home, you change your mind I see no reason why you should expect the retailer to refund you; it might choose to do so out of goodwill, because it sees it as in its longer term interests, but not as your right.

An interesting one is where stores issue gift receipts, normally for when you buy presents or on someone else’s behalf. You could abuse this buy getting a gift receipt even when you buy for yourself, whatever the stores policy. This usually, I think, allows a credit receipt (so you can buy something else) if returned to the store, but if returned by post it may allow a refund to the purchasers card.


I had a great one last year… I bought 42 boxes of bathroom tiles to cover three walls of my bathroom from a high street DIY store where the refund and returns policy is a 30 days with receipt. After tiling a few rows we noticed that the ‘white’ tiles were a colour chart whites, creams and even a grey colour – they were the same tile batch codes and all the same boxes. I went back to the retailer and said I needed to return the 41 boxes and they refused on the grounds that I should have checked every tile to make sure it was the right colour despite the tiles having the same box and batch codes. After arguing that they hadn’t advised that tiles could vary at any point during the purchase, and I couldn’t see the argument for a customer having to carry out their quality control checks either, they eventually agreed to give me a refund. It was really annoying and, like @alfa, I now check with the cashier as to what the returns policy is.


@Lauren, I also suspect you would have had a claim under the Consumer Rights Act that the tiles were not as described – one colour – unless the cartons pointed out that there would be a natural colour variation. I like tiling; very satisfying particulaly when you’ve worked out how to start in corners to get a uniform look. My failing when I first started was rubbing in grout with my index finger; I noticed when the grout took on a slightly pinkish hue and I no longer had a fingerprint.


I am amazed that they resisted, Lauren.

Some customers would have given up with a shrug of the shoulders and put it down to experience. The store obviously didn’t realise who they were dealing with in your case! I think ‘not as described’ was the obvious escape route. I suppose the store put the returned tiles back on the shelves. In my experience DIY stores are notoriously difficult over returns. Did you have to take the laid tiles down to return them? This might be why people like mottled and marble-effect wall tiles.