What are my shopping rights in a Christmas sale?

Christmas sales start earlier and earlier every year. But how can you be sure the sale is genuine and that the items really are a bargain?

A Christmas 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:

  • 28 consecutive days 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.
  • Not on sale longer than sold at original price 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higher price unless the shop displays a sign explaining how the sale differs from these rules or, if something is going out of date.
  • Clearly displayed prices 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're not be legally entitled to return it if it was bought in person from a shop on the high street.

You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy. 

Shops don't legally have to have a returns policy but if they do have one, they must stick to it.

Most retailers impose time limits for returning non-faulty products, such as 28 days. But many extend their returns policies around Christmas, so you might have more time than you think.

Top tips

  • Check the returns policy before you buy - you don't have an automatic right to return non-faulty items
  • Check that it's a genuine sale - make sure you know what the original price was so you can judge if it's a good deal
  • Check for faults - if you're told about faults before you buy an item you won't be able to return it for being faulty

Returning faulty sales goods 

If you buy something that has a fault, regardless of whether you bought it in a sale or not, you have the right to return it under the Consumer Rights Act.

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 can't try to limit this right in a sale.

If you're returning something faulty you bought in a sale within the 30-day right to reject you should be given a full refund.

But you can't claim under the Consumer Rights Act for faults you were told about before you bought the item. 

Returning sale goods online 

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

You can 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.

But as with shopping on the high street, retailers often extend their returns period at Christmas so it's worth checking their policies for any additional time.

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