Returning Unwanted Christmas Gifts: Your Consumer Rights

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unwanted christmas gifts

The awkward moment on Christmas morning when the gift you were expecting is ‘not quite’ what you had anticipated. Or your beloved gift IS what you wanted but doesn’t load up, switch on, has bits missing or is plain broken.

Aside from forcing an earnest, ‘no, really it’s perfect’ or getting angry that the gift you bought hasn’t given you the desired reaction, what rights do you have if you want to return gifts and what steps can you take before you buy a gift to make sure you are protected?

The unwanted gift:

Here’s the shocker. You do not have any guaranteed rights to take back something that is ‘unwanted’ from a high street shop if it is in full working order. Don’t be discouraged though most shops do have a ‘good will’ returns policy.

These policies usually require that return items are in the original packaging. Details of returns policies are often found on receipts or the retailer’s website. Many shops extend their return policies over the Christmas period.

Remember
*You have the right to ask for a repair, a replacement or a refund. Equally, a retailer can choose the most cost-effective option.

The lost receipt:

No doubt receipts make things easier for both the retailer and the buyer but there is no legal stipulation for retailers to issue receipts. If you are told you must have a receipt to return a gift then the retailer is not sticking to the rules.

When returning a gift, a proof of purchase can be established in the form of a bank or credit card statement. However, rejecting a gift from someone then asking for their bank statement is probably going to ensure you won’t be getting anything next year.

If you do not have a receipt make sure labels, tags or any packaging are as intact as possible. This will go some way in helping you successfully return a gift.

The gift receipt:

Most retailers supply gift receipts making it easier for recipients to make returns without the original buyer knowing. If you are buying a gift and cannot get a gift receipt then you can ask for a normal receipt. You may then write on it ‘bought as a gift’. Ask the sales assistant to sign this so it becomes easier for the recipient to return if required.

Remember
*Sales are an agreement between the buyer and seller and nothing to do with the person who is ultimately in receipt of that gift.

The faulty toy or gadget:

If you’ve given a faulty gift to someone this Christmas try to resist the temptation to begin Googling ‘faulty Christmas goods’ on Christmas Day. It will ruin the atmosphere and it’s a pretty safe bet that you will be able to return the item at a later date.

The Sales of Goods Act (1979) states that an item you purchased must be as described, be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
This includes gifts which don’t do what they say on the tin. This includes fake goods

Remember:
Don’t allow too much time to elapse between purchase and return. Also you do not have to accept a credit note in these circumstances.

What the seller might say:

Shops sometimes say you need to contact the manufacturer if your gift if it is faulty. Not so. As stated, purchases are legally between the ‘seller’ and the person who bought the gift. You may have a manufacturer’s warranty allowing you repairs on faults but you still have rights with the retailer. These rights often include free repair or replacement from the seller.

A seller may also suggest you caused the fault. In most cases, if an item bought in the last 6 months is not functioning properly then it is considered faulty from the purchase date.

What the seller might say about sale items:

If a retailer claims it does not accept returns on sale goods then this is unlawful. You always have full refund rights on faulty goods.

The Flexible friend:

Using a credit card can have advantages. If you are buying anything priced from £100 to £30,000 then whip out the plastic and you will be protected if a dispute with a seller arises. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act the law states that the credit card company is jointly responsible if things go wrong when you buy something.

Try to resolve any disputes with the retailer directly. If you do not get any joy returning your faulty gift then you can contact your credit card company for a refund. This rule can also be applied for goods bought online or from overseas.

The online gift:

According to the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) regulations (2000) online retailers have 30 days to refund you but you must ensure the item is returned within 7 days of receipt. The major difference between online shops and high street retailers is that returns can be made online even if you simply don’t like the gift.

If you are super organised this year then you will have ordered your online gift eons ago. Luckily a lot of online retailers account for this and policies are temporarily revised during the festive period meaning you have longer to make returns. Check the return policies on individual gifts before you buy to be on the safe side.

Bear in mind that if you need to return something that was shipped from another country then you may have to make arrangements to pay for the return delivery.

Gifts that can not be returned:

• CDs and DVDs
• Software
• Personlised gifts
• Fresh food
• Flowers

Although the majority of online businesses comply fully with consumer laws there unfortunately a few who don’t. Watch out for unreasonable refund policies on some sites which expect you to keep the gift in original packaging. A survey by the Office of Fair Trading in October said it found that in cases where it was impossible to examine or access the contents there was an infringement on consumer rights.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.