What are my rights when I shop in a sale?

Which? research reveals that 44% of you don't know you can return a faulty item bought in a sale for a full refund of what you paid. Find out more on this page.

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A sale must be genuine

If a shop is advertising a sale it has to follow government guidelines in order to ensure it's genuine. There are three key things to look out for:

  • Before reducing prices in a sale, items must have been sold at the higher price for 28 consecutive days in that store immediately before the sale, unless a sign explains the terms of the offer
  • Items shouldn't be on offer at the sale price for longer than being sold at the higher price unless the shop displays a sign explaining how the sale differs from these rules or, if something is going out of date
  • The original price must be clearly displayed along with the sale price. A sign shouldn't just say 'sale £15' – it must say something like 'was £50, sale price £15'.

Returning non-faulty sale items

If you change your mind about a product, or you just don't like a gift, you may not be entitled to return it.

You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy. Shops don't have to have a returns policy, but if they have one they must stick to it.

Shops often place restrictions on returning sale items, so check the returns policy before buying. Most retailers impose time limits for returning non-faulty goods, such as 28 days.

Returning faulty sales goods

If you buy something that's faulty, regardless of whether you bought it in a sale, you have the right to return it under the Consumer Rights Act.

The Consumer Rights Act applies to all purchases made on or after 1 October 2015. For purchases made before this date, the Sale of Goods Act applies. 

Sale and non-sale items must be:

  • as described
  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose.

You have the right to claim for a refund, replacement or repair if sale goods are faulty. A retailer cannot try to limit this right in sales.

If you're returning something faulty you bought in a sale within 30 days you should be reimbursed the full amount you paid.

If the retailer won't refund or replace faulty sales goods, you can use our template letter to complain. 

However, you can't claim under the Consumer Rights Act for faults you were told about before you bought the item - sometimes the fault is the reason for the product being on sale in the first place. 

Returning sale goods online

If you buy items in an online sale, you have additional rights to return them under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.  

The Consumer Contracts Regulations replaced the Distance Selling Regulations in June 2014. 

You are responsible for returning the goods within 14 calendar days, and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after the return of the goods (or after evidence is provided that they were returned). 

You can also cancel your order for goods bought online anytime from the moment you place your order up to 14 days from the day you receive it. 

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For years we've seen supermarkets use misleading tactics to exaggerate discounts and manipulate spending. So we took action for shoppers. We submitted a super-complaint to the regulator, asking them to act. They agreed with us and have taken supermarkets to task by securing formal legal commitments to end dodgy ‘was/now’ special offers and misleading multi-buys.

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