Do you know your rights if something you buy develops a fault? And do you know when you're entitled to a refund?
Many of us are surprised to find out that high street shops don't have to accept returns unless an item is faulty, not as described or is unfit for purpose.
Goodwill returns policy
The good news is that most retailers choose to provide a 'goodwill' returns policy offering an exchange, refund or credit note for most returns.
And if your item was bought online, over the phone, or by mail order you have additional rights to return it under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
Check policy before you buy
You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy.
It's worth noting that shops aren't required by law to have a returns policy, but if they do have one they must stick to it.
But you're only entitled to an automatic refund if you return it 30 days otherwise you can must give the retailer a chance to make a repair or replacement.
Returns policies are usually displayed on receipts, on signs in-store and online.You can also ring the shop's customer services line to find out its returns policy.
Most retailers impose time limits for returning non-faulty products, such as 28 days, but many extend around Christmas for example, so you might have more time than you think.
If you paid by credit card, you also have extra protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
- High street shops don’t have to accept returns on non-faulty items
- If a shop has a returns policy, it has to stick to it
- Check in-store or on your receipt for the returns policy
- Most shops have a limit for non-faulty returns, usually 28 days
The items that can't be returned
Most retailers have policies which stipulate that they will accept non-faulty returns, as long as items are unused and in perfect condition with their undamaged original packaging.
But there are some returns exceptions worth knowing about.
- DVDs, music and computer software Many retailers refuse returns if the seal or packaging has been broken.
- Perishable items You won't usually be able to return an item if it's perishable. This includes food and flowers.
- Made to order If an item has been made to order or personalised it's very unlikely that you'll be able to return it.
Was a fault present at purchase?
In a recent survey we found that only 13% of people knew that six months after purchasing a product the onus is on you to prove a fault was present at the time of purchase in order to claim a refund, repair or replacement from a retailer.
When we asked people how they would prove a fault was present at purchase if a fridge-freezer they had owned for 15 months stopped working due to a fault, 68% said they wouldn’t know how.
The truth is that the law does not detail how consumers can prove a fault was present at purchase, which can make it problematic when you’re asked to do so.
So we've put together some handy tips in our how to return a faulty item guide.
What to you need for returns
Depending on a retailer’s returns policy some will only exchange or give you a credit note, while others will give you a refund. But all shops usually require a few key things.
- A receipt Always keep your receipt and take it with you. If you’re buying a gift for someone else, ask for a gift receipt so that they can change it themselves.
- The card you paid with If you paid for an item on a debit or credit card, take it with you when you return the item. This is especially important if you want a refund as its often credited to the card you paid with.
- The original packaging We’ve said it already, but don’t underestimate the importance of taking the item’s original packaging with you. Even down to the pesky cable ties.
FAULTY ADVICE ON GOODS?
A recent Which? investigation revealed some retailers are giving misleading advice on returning faulty goods.
If you need tailored advice to get the result you're entitled to, you can speak to a Which? legal expert for just £29.99.
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If you have no receipt
If you simply change your mind, the retailer has no legal obligation to give you you money back, should you return an item without a receipt. However, many stores will offer an exchange or credit note, so its always worth asking.
If your goods are faulty and you don't have the receipt, you still have the same rights to a repair, refund or replacement as under the Consumer Rights Act.