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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?


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.

Years ago I took back some wallpaper when I found a defect in several rolls with the same batch code. Fortunately I discovered the problem before starting to paper the room because the first roll was faulty.

A friend bought boxes of handmade tiles and was disappointed that there was more variation between tiles than she had expected from looking at samples in the shop. The biggest problem was the considerable variation in thickness. I was dragged in to discussions about sorting them into batches and using certain ones behind the washing machine, dishwasher, etc. Eventually the job was given to a professional tiler and he managed to do an excellent job.

I can relate to Malcolm’s fingertip problem. My glove split when using oven cleaner and it was some time before my index finger would unlock my mobile phone.

Yes, I suppose I could’ve claimed under CRA @malcolm-r. After pointing out how ridiculous the ‘policy’ was they did back down. If I’d have known that the tiles could vary that much and that the advice was to check every single one then I probably would have gone to a different supplier. These were painted white tiles and they did say that the tiles could vary when I returned them, but I can’t see why tiles with the same batch numbers would vary so much.

@johnward, the retailer did write off the opened and used box as faulty. I don’t know whether the others went back on the shelves or not, but I suspect they did.

Malcom, has your fingerprint returned? My tiling skills are not quite up to scratch and we did lose the odd tile or too in the process, so I got a tiler in to help in the end.

My fingerprints are a problem when entering the US as there isn’t a lot left of them !!!

I once wanted wallpaper that had different shades for the same batch number. I think it was B&Q who ordered some more and they turned out the same colour.

Years ago I bought a PC game from Virgin Records and one of the diskettes was faulty. I took it back to exchange it and they resealed the box in plastic film then put it back on the shelf in front of me. Their resealing machine made the product look brand new and unopened.

I bought a Double mattress from Ikea ” Hvag” after seeing your reviews. When I opened it realised it was soft and not fully firm. I contacted the supplier and they were happy to deliver and exchange without any cost despite the fact that I bought it straight home from the store. However, having spoken to my son who suggested this mattress , I changed my mind to keep it and informed them . They were so courteous it’s unbelievable to see such a service.

I bought a hair trimmer from Argos as a present for my husband over Xmas. It was a Phillips make. A make I have always trusted. When I came to trim his hair in early January 2017 I realised it was more a Beard Trimmer, so decided to take it back without using it as I had a receipt that said all Xmas gifts can be returned within the dates specified.There was also notices in the shop saying they have hassle free exchange if you had proof of purchase.

To my surprise I was refused despite the fact that it had never been used and within the date of return. I later took it to another Argos Dept and it was exchanged hassle free.

Bought an induction hob from Currys early November and didn’t open at once (opened after the 30 day period) as kitchen being refitted. Currys are sticking to their 48 hour policy, despite me writing to them with a template letter from the Which? website stating the Consumer Rights Act 2015- after taking legal advice from a Which? legal adviser. They offered me 15% off as goodwill.

Nearly 2 months on from the original replace/repair request, we are no further forward and won’t be buying from Currys PC World again in any circumstances.

joe says:
27 April 2017

i bought a 10 plate fiat punto 2 months ago, it has started leaking oil from the oil sump & the exhaust back box is in a terrible state, i paid £3300 for the car, the car in question clearly had these issues before i bought it as previous paperwork for the car documented leaking oil sump & exhaust back box falling apart, i guess about £600 to repair

Bought a second hand lawnmower of facebook , on the second use of it the blade came flying off along with another bit of metal that was under the plastic cover. Contacted the seller and he said it’s our fault and we are lying to him, the bloody thing nearly took out my child’s ankles out, and almost broke my other halfs hand, seriously not impressed and unsure of any rights we have . The seller has now blocked me….sigh

It will depend on how it was described, Victoria. If it was offered in perfect working condition with a full service history (!) you might have a claim but it was probably sold for a reason [which was in the price]. Unless you know how old the mower is and how much work it has already done the questions of fitness for purpose and durability do not arise. The motor might have some modest resale value or the damage might be repairable economically; it might be worth seeing if there is a lawn-mower repair service in your area you could talk to.

frank finlayson says:
9 May 2017

bought a micro/convection Panasonic from Curry’s. Convection wouldn’t work properly -wouldn’t work at right temp. Returned to Curry’s -product only 3months old-they refused to replace, offered to repair! I said ,under the consumer act ,as I would be inconvenienced without-as such, I was entitled to a replacement . Curry’s refused, said they entitled to offer repair or nothing! Are they correct?

The Consumer Rights Act says that if an item is faulty within the first 6 months from delivery it is presumed the fault was present when new. The customer then has the right to a repair or a replacement unless one is disproportionate compared to the other, and this is the customer’s choice (not the retailers).

It is time retailers who ignore their legal obligations, or mislead customers, were held to account; it is a criminal offence to deny their legal rights given by the CRA.

I bought a car 2 months ago has a major fault. Returned it to the dealer who is asking me for 50% of the repair bill. The car cost £13500 . I’ve already spent £ 800 doing work on it in other areas of the car.

How long is a reasonable time to wait for a repair for a tumble dryer. I bought a replacement dryer from Hotpoint under their scheme to replace or repair on the recalled dryers. I had a new one delivered at the end of February. I have used it about half a dozen times. The engineer came to fix it nearly a month ago but needed two parts which he didn’t have. I have now waited nearly a month and no sign of being fixed

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 says – BIS guidance – “ You must provide the repair or replacement within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer. This means that if the repair/replacement work takes too long, or causes significant inconvenience to the consumer, the consumer would have the right to reject the goods for a refund or demand some money back

However, since many users have been waiting a year for Hotpoint to deal with their obligations, under the guidance of Peterborough Trading Standards, I wouldn’t hold your breath. I would exercise your right to a full refund and buy a dryer of a different make.

I purchased a Dell XPS 15 in August 2016 from PC World, and now it’s been returned 5 times since November 2016 for repair due to ‘no bootable device failure’. It goes for a few weeks then the same problem occurs; at the 4th repair they replaced the hard drive. On returning the 5th time, the person at their ‘Knowhow’ desk suggested contacting the repair centre in view of so many faults with a possible replacement. However, they won’t replace as they say it’s a software problem, not hardware, yet the BIOS and operating systems are firmware, an integral part of the computer, not software, and won’t replace until it’s had 4 hardware parts replaced! I’ve lost all confidence this product will be permanently repaire – the product’s been a waste of £1,100. Should they replace the laptop, it being firmware, not a software fault?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Trevor – I agree with Duncan – PC world are indeed spinning you are yarn.

Your only concern should be whether or not PC World can fix your PC – if not they should replace it. Whether or not the problem is hardware or software (or even both) is immaterial from a consumer rights point of view.

Trevor – You are not required to accept multiple attempts to repair goods. Under the Consumer Rights Act you are entitled to a partial refund or replacement: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/section/24/enacted

If you reported that there was a problem within six months of purchase, the fault is presumed to be present at the time of purchase, unless the retailer can prove otherwise, in which case you should be entitled to a refund.

I suggest you read up on the legislation on the Which? website, and take a printed copy of the legislation. Here is a document that might help retailers understand their obligations: https://www.businesscompanion.info/sites/default/files/The%20sale%20and%20supply%20of%20goods_ALL_BIS_GOODS_GUIDANCE_SEP15.pdf

Best of luck and please let us know how you get on.

Hi Trevor, Wavechange is quite right here. You’ve offered the retailer a chance to repair the machine, you could now seek a refund for the faulty PC. We have a faulty goods tool that can help you generate the letter to the retailer: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product#use-our-faulty-goods-complaint-tool

Hi guys i bought a motorcycle back in april last year as i was doing my driving test passed in nov 2017 got the bike from the dealer 0n the 28/11/16 from then to now it has broken down 10 times each time i have let it go been repaired by the dealer or so they say i have spotted some issues that have nt been fix or botched together . It broke down yesterday 27/07/17 i have had enough i could have been killed bike cut out in the middle of a busy street my bikes not fit for purpose would love to know is there any way i can get another bike or my money back . Whats my right s its under financehi guys i bought a motorcycle back in april last year as i was doing my driving test passed in nov 2017 got the bike from the dealer 0n the 28/11/16 from then to now it has broken down 10 times each time i have let it go been repaired by the dealer or so they say i have spotted some issues that have nt been fix or botched together . It broke down yesterday 27/07/17 i have had enough i could have been killed bike cut out in the middle of a busy street my bikes not fit for purpose would love to know is there any way i can get another bike or my money back . Whats my right s its under finance

Hi there, I bought a lawnmower back in March that arrived with a broken handle. I sent a picture to the company who sent a new handle – I couldn’t fit it and after sometime they agreed to pick it up and send me a new one.

I missed the delivery and never got contacted about it.

I contacted them again and they organised a new delivery the next day – the driver came and couldn’t find it! He then said it was broken (again) and back in the depot.

I said I want a new one that hasn’t been fixed as I’m getting worried about that one now. Instead of agreeing with this, they just told me they will give a refund and I need to buy one closer to me (they’re a website). I’m furious as locally this would be around £30 more anywhere and I’ve waited 4 months to get this reply!!!

Can I refuse a refund and get them to give me a new item?

Thank you!


jacqueline gray says:
31 August 2017

I have had my parents bathroom done. A shower instead of a bath. Half the bathroom was wet walled at this time. I decided to have the rest of the walls also wet walled. This happened a week later, Unfortunately it is not the same colour and part of the marble pattern in one section has been put up in the wrong direction. The company has said it would cost too much to replace it but that they would look at the wet wall, This visit has not happened. No one mentioned any issues with colour matching.

Barbara Calver says:
26 September 2017

I have just bought 3 pairs of slippers and one pair of boots all advertised as ugg products. When I got them home I could clearly see that the ugg plaques on the slippers where just about ready to fall off. I believe that I have been missold these items. When I contacted the seller for a refund her reply was, “Well what did you expect for £100. Where do I stand with this ?

Given the list price of UGG products, are you saying it didn’t cross your mind that these were very very much cheaper and might possibly be fakes? Can you tell us who you bought them from?

A retailer should be prosecuted for selling fake products – presuming they are – if the law can reach them. You could simply hope to get your money back, maybe through your card company if a direct approach fails.