Our latest research into returns policies has found there can be vast differences between different retailers. So if you’re prone to making impulse buys you might regret later, make sure you know your rights.
I’m a hideously indecisive shopper. Considering I also have a penchant for clothing and possess poor organisational skills, I spend a fair bit of time and effort negotiating refunds from uninterested shop assistants.
As such, it’s important for me to know where I stand with returns.
The gulf between refund policies
Our investigation into the refund policies of more than 30 retailers found a difference of 358 days between the shortest and the longest refund period. For example, you get a whole year to take your purchases back to Mama’s and Papa’s, but only a week at Harvey Nichols. Good news for parents, bad news for big spenders.
While I’m neither of those, I am a regular sale shopper. It was interesting to find out that 34% of stores have a shorter time frame in which to return sales items compared to their full price goods, while 12% had a different timeframe for online and in-store returns. Of all the stores we look at, Lakeland was the only one to generously offer an unlimited refund policy both online and in-store.
I should also admit that I lose my receipts quite a lot. Fortunately, all of the shops we contacted were happy to find a workaround in this situation. Most offered to exchange the item for another of the same value, accept bank statements as proof of postage, or even trace the card transaction on their system.
Consumer rights get an update
But what are your rights when you want to return something that’s just not up to scratch?
If your item is faulty, you’re protected by the Sale of Goods Act. If items aren’t as described, of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose, you’re entitled to a repair or replacement as long as it’s ‘within a reasonable time’, which currently isn’t fixed.
The new draft Consumer Rights Bill will lead to a change in the rules around the return of faulty goods. Once the Bill is made law, all consumers will be given a fixed 30 days in which to claim a full refund. After this point, you will still be entitled to one repair or replacement, and then a refund after this point if the item is still faulty. However, we don’t expect this law to kick in for a long time yet.
Still, the new rules won’t affect your refund rights if you happen to change your mind about a purchase. Retailers aren’t obliged to issue a refund but, as we found in our investigation, most stores do have a goodwill refund policy. However, these policies vary across the board, so make sure you check the store’s refund policy before you buy (especially if you’re prone to indecision like me).