The Consumer Contracts Regulations
When you buy goods online you have additional rights to return them.
This is because your decision may be based on a brief description or a photograph – so what you receive isn't always quite what you’d expected.
Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, you are allowed to return an item if you simply change your mind.
Online returns timelines
You have the right to cancel at any time from the moment you place your online order, and up to 14 days from the day you receive your goods.
You need to notify the retailer of your wish to cancel your order within this time period – by email, for example.
You then have a further 14 days from the date you notify the retailer of your cancellation to return the goods.
Longer returns periods
Many online retailers extend the cancellation period even further, so be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully as you may have longer to return unwanted items.
However, be aware that if you rely on the online store's more generous timeline for returns, you may also then have to adhere to extra conditions when you come to send the goods back.
If you return your unwanted goods according to the timelines set out by the Consumer Contracts Regulations, there are only a few exemptions to getting a refund.
Exemptions to online returns
There are some circumstances where the Consumer Contracts Regulations won’t give you a right to cancel.
These include CDs, DVDs or software if you've broken the seal on the wrapping, perishable items and tailor-made or personalised items. They also include goods with a seal for health protection and hygiene reasons that's been broken.
Also included are goods that have been mixed inseparably with other items after delivery.
Paying to return goods
You must cover the cost for returning unwanted goods, unless the retailer says it will cover these costs.
Just in case the retailer disputes you've returned your goods, we recommend you get proof of postage – this should be sufficient evidence to prove that you've returned the goods.
If your goods are faulty, you shouldn't have to pay to return the goods.
Getting a refund
While you have to pay to return the goods, the retailer has to refund the basic delivery cost of getting the goods to you in the first place. If you opted for enhanced service eg guaranteed next day, it only has to refund the basic cost.
Your refund for the goods must be paid within 14 calendar days after returning the goods, or evidence that they were returned.
A deduction can be made if the value of the goods has been reduced as a result of you handling the goods more than was necessary.
The extent to which you can handle the goods is the same as it would be if you were assessing them in a shop.
- Consumer Contracts Regulations allow you to cancel any time from the moment you place your order and up to 14 calendar days from the day you receive your goods
- You must notify the retailer of your wish to cancel and return the goods – by email, for example
- You are responsible for returning the item within 14 calendar days of cancelling and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after returning the goods, or evidence that they were returned
- You still have rights under the Consumer Rights Act for returning faulty goods bought online
Returning faulty goods bought online
The Consumer Contracts Regulations are in addition to your other legal rights.
If you receive goods that are faulty and don’t do what they're supposed to, or don’t match the description given, you have the same rights under the Consumer Rights Act as you have when buying face to face.
Any terms and conditions that say you must cover the cost of returning an item don't apply where the goods being returned are faulty.
If you are looking to return your item because it is faulty, read our guide on what to do if you need to return a faulty product.
Should I accept credit notes for returns?
The retailer may have a returns policy stating that it will only give customers a credit note or vouchers for returns. But this must only apply where customers are looking to return an unwanted item. Additionally, if you are returning your online order up to or within the 14 days from the day you received your goods, under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you can ask for a refund rather than a credit note.
The seller’s returns policy also can't require customers to take vouchers where an item has been returned due to it being 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.