Most retailers are updating or extending their returns policies while stores are closed.
John Lewis, for example, is allowing you to return items 28 days after their stores re-open, while M&S asks that you wait to return non-essential items when their stores are back open.
Check in with the retailer you purchased from to see what their updated policy is.
Your statutory rights when returning goods
The most important statutory rights for returning your shopping comes from two pieces of legislation - the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
These two regulations cover the return of unwanted goods bought online and your right to return faulty goods bought online or from a store.
If you can understand your statutory rights in these two areas, it'll put you in a better position for getting your money back.
Returning unwanted items you purchased in a shop isn't an automatic right - you'll have to check the returns policy of the store. But the retailer must stick to what is said in it.
If your item was bought online, over the phone or by mail order, as a customer you have consumer returns rights 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.
You then have a further 14 days from the date you notify the retailer that you'd like to cancel your order to return the goods to them.
We've put together advice on the additional consumer returns rights you have when purchasing goods online in our online returns guide.
Returning faulty goods
Make a faulty goods complaint
You could be entitled to a repair, replacement or a refund, answer some simple questions and Which? can help you start your complaint for free.
First, what do you want to return?
Your 30 day right to return
You have the legal right to a refund if you return your faulty good within 30 days of receiving it, regardless of what the store's return policy says.
Your consumer returns rights after 30 days
If you don't reject the goods within the first 30 days, and find a fault within the first six months of possessing your faulty goods, you'll need to give the retailer a chance to make a repair or replacement. If that's unsuccessful, you can then ask for a refund.
After six months
After the first six months, the burden of proof switches to you to prove the fault you've found was present at the time you purchased the goods in store or first took ownership of it if you bought it online.
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.
See our guide on returning faulty goods to find out more about your right to a refund, repair or replacement.
Need some advice?
Speak directly to our legal team about your issue and you’ll get tailored advice to help you resolve it. Just £9 per month (plus £29 joining fee).
To join, call us on 01992 879 550 or sign up online.
Store returns or exchange 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.
You can only return store-bought 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.
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 to return an unwanted product.
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
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.
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.
Can you exchange or get a refund without a receipt?
If you simply change your mind, the retailer has no legal obligation to give you your 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 right to a repair, refund or replacement as under the Consumer Rights Act. You just need to show proof of payment, such as a bank statement with the transaction on it.
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.