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Complain for change: Brits lose out on £1.2bn

Unreturned goods

£1.2bn has been lost by Britain’s shoppers in the last year by not exercising their rights to return goods. That’s a difficult figure to digest. Here’s why brushing up on your rights could save you bundles.

What do dresses that don’t fit, broken trampolines, and faulty washing machines all have in common? Apart from being a stroke of pretty bad luck if you succumb to all three, they’re also three things you have a right to return for a refund. They also belonged to three members of the Which? team, but not all of them exercised their rights. And they’re not alone.

In our survey, we found out that around 12 million people have lost out on at least one occasion in the past year by not returning goods when they had a right to. That represents a pretty shocking £1.2bn, or the equivalent of sending 8,924 parcels into space and back on a Virgin Galactic flight! You don’t need to be an astronaut to see that that stat is out of this world.

Returning your goods – the facts

Consumer rights infographicBut did you know how simple it is to return your goods? In our survey we discovered four in ten people didn’t know they have seven working days from the day they receive an item bought online to let the seller know they want to return it – even if they simply change their mind.

Plus, if you buy something and it breaks within the first six months, under the Sale of Goods Act, it is up to the retailer to prove the item isn’t faulty. After six months the onus switches to you to prove there was a defect when you got it. And if you want to find the answers to all your consumer rights questions, check out our new website.

So, are you consumer rights savvy when it comes to returning goods? Have you ever tried to get a refund on a faulty product? If you haven’t, what’s stopped you?


I have had very few problems with returning goods and the only time I was forced to accept a repair was when a fault was not apparent for several weeks after purchase.

It concerns me that Amazon (including their Marketplace traders), Pixmania and other online traders are routinely supplying goods with the wrong plug, which we have discussed in another Conversation:

It is high time that these companies are forced to comply with the UK regulations. If I receive anything with the wrong plug it will be returned promptly, with the supplier paying the postage.

I’ve had a look on both the FedEx and DHL websites, but I can’t find the relevant service for sending a package into space. I thought it might be a spoof, but it’s not even April 1st!

So are you sure it’s exactly 8,924 parcels and not 8,925? Or how about a round 9,000? Won’t it depend on the weight of those packages and how big they are?

What’s the relevance of these crazy statistics to the subject under discussion? As you say: “That [£1.2 Billion] is a difficult figure to digest”, but it’s not aided by throwing in additional figures that are meaningless to anyone but a NASA mission planner.

Pat says:
17 March 2013

I had to return a faulty lens to Jessops. The assistant said he would send it for a repair. I told him that I would prefer a new replacement. He said that was not possible that I had to have a repair until I reminded him of the Sale of goods act 3 R’s, repair, replace or refund. He checked with his legal department and within minutes I had the new lens.

On a different occasion, also at Jessops, I had to return a small camera that refused to focus when in video mode. The assistant manager refused even when I pointed out the provisions under the act. She said it had to be saleable and in the original packaging. I pointed out that was their rules not according to the SofG act. She only refunded the money when I requested her refusal in writing so I could take them to court. THEN I had my money in record time.

It’s a matter of knowing what one is entitled to.

mally says:
22 April 2013

CAMPING WORLD refused a refund of a tent porch stating that as i had opened it they could only sell it on ebay so would give me a refund of 75% of my original purchase cost. when i spoke to a manager he agreed until i mentioned the distance selling regulations then suddenly the item was scratched/ripped. after much correspondance and help from oft i had to except an offer from the head of company of … 75% of original cost as i couldn’t prove i hadn’t damaged the item.
Strange how both sums offered are the same… also what company would honestly except a ripped item back and still refund a customer??