358 days difference in store refund policiesWhich? investigates refund policies on the high street

20 June 2013


Which? found nearly a year’s difference between some of the most and least generous refund policies at some of the UK's biggest high street stores. 

Refund periods vary dramatically

When Which? carried out an investigation into the refund policies of 32 high street retailers in May, we found policies varied greatly.

Our research found there was 358 days difference between one of the most generous refund policies and the least. 

At Mamas and Papas, customers have a whole year to change their minds and receive a refund, while Harvey Nichols offers shoppers only seven days. 

Kitchenware retailer Lakeland took the top spot with an unlimited refund policy both in-store and online.

Getting a refund

If you simply change your mind about something you buy, shops are not legally obliged to give you a refund. However, all the high street shops we investigated offered refunds if customers changed their mind.

In addition, when we asked, all stores said they would be willing to offer an exchange if the customer no longer had the receipt, saying they'd be willing to trace the transaction on their system to provide a full refund. 

Refund on faulty items

Retailers have a legal obligation however, if an item you purchase develops a fault. Under the Sale of Goods Act, products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and should be as described. 

If something develops a fault within the first few weeks, then you have the right to reject it and get a refund, or get a replacement or a repair if something develops a fault within six months of purchase. 

Refunds when shopping online

Which? found that some retailer's online returns policies differed from their in-store ones, with 12% of shops having a shorter timeframe to make an online return, compared with in-store. 

The biggest difference was at retail giant Next, who allows only eight days to return an online order, compared with 28 days in-store. 

Outdoor and leisure stores were most consistent in their policies. All the top outdoor and leisure stores investigated had the same window for in-store and online returns, with Evans Cycles allowing customers a generous ninety days to change their mind. 

All stores complied with the Distance Selling Regulations, which state that you have seven days to cancel a purchase made at a distance, from the day after receiving the item.

Returning sales goods

A third of the outdoor and leisure, electronic and department stores had a shorter timeframe for returning items bought in a sale. Typically this was around half the period stated for full price goods. 

If you’ve changed your mind about an item bought in the sale, visit the Which? Consumer Rights website for more information on your rights when shopping in the sales.

More on this...

- Find out more about your consumer rights when shopping online
- Check out our guide to the best and worst high street shops
- Share your experiences of high street shop returns on Which? Conversation