I want to return my goods, what are my rights?

If you buy goods that are faulty, not as described or unfit for purpose, you have the right to return them. You also have additional rights when you shop online.

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

The Consumer Contracts Regulations gives you a cancellation period that starts the moment you place your order and ends 14 days from the day you receive your goods.

We've put together advice on the additional rights you have when returning goods purchased online in our online returns guide.

Returning faulty goods?

If a product you’ve bought develops a fault you could have the right to a refund, repair or replacement.

You can use our advice and free tool to generate a letter asking for a refund, repair or replacement.

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.

Under the Consumer Rights Act (which replaced the Sale of Goods Act in October 2015) you have a statutory right to return something and get your money back if it's faulty.

But you're only entitled to an automatic refund if you return it within 30 days otherwise you 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 do 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 Which? investigation revealed some retailers are giving misleading advice on returning faulty goods.

If you need tailored advice to get the results you're entitled to, you can speak to a Which? legal expert for just £29.99. 

To sign up, call us on  01992 879 550 or join online.

If you don't have a 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

Do I have to accept a credit note for a return?

The retailer's returns policy may state that customers will only receive a credit note or vouchers, but this should only apply where the item is unwanted. The seller’s returns policy can't require customers to take vouchers where an item has been returned because it is faulty. 

The Consumer Rights Act specifies the rights that consumers have if products develop a fault and the seller can’t remove or reduce these. 

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