What are my shopping rights in a Christmas sale?

Christmas sales start earlier and earlier every year. But how can you be sure the sale is genuine and that the items really are a bargain?

A Christmas sale must be genuine

If a shop is advertising a sale it has to follow government guidelines in order to ensure it's genuine. These are some of the things to look out for when shopping in a sale:

  • The basis for the saving must be clear. For example, a sign shouldn't just say 'sale £15' – it should say something like 'was £50, sale price £15'.
  • If there’s a promotional offer on an item, the price the item is being compared to must be genuine. If the higher price it’s being compared to was the last price the item was retailing at or the 'was/sale price' promotion hasn’t run for any longer than the item was being sold at the 'was' price, this promotional offer is more likely to be genuine.
  • A multi-buy (three for the price of two, for example) or combination offer (any three items from a range of options for £5, for example) should be cheaper than the total cost of buying the same items separately.

Returning non-faulty sale items

If you change your mind about a product, or you just don't like a gift, you're not be legally entitled to return it if it was bought in person from a shop on the high street.

You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy. 

Shops don't legally have to have a returns policy but if they do have one, they must stick to it. So, if you received an unwanted Christmas gift that you'd like to return, check the retailer's store policy.

Most retailers impose time limits for returning non-faulty products, such as 28 days. But many extend their returns policies around Christmas, so you might have more time than you think.

Top tips

  • Check the returns policy before you buy - you don't have an automatic right to return non-faulty items
  • Check that it's a genuine sale - make sure you know what the original price was so you can judge if it's a good deal
  • Check for faults - if you're told about faults before you buy an item you won't be able to return it for being faulty

Returning faulty sales goods 

If you buy something that has a fault, regardless of whether you bought it in a sale or not, you have the right to return it under the Consumer Rights Act.

Sale and non-sale items must be:

  • as described
  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose.

You have the right to claim for a refund, replacement or repair if sale goods are faulty. A retailer can't try to limit this right in a sale.

If you're returning something faulty you bought in a sale within the 30-day right to reject you should be given a full refund.

But you can't claim under the Consumer Rights Act for faults you were told about before you bought the item. 

Returning sale goods online 

If you buy items in an online sale, you have additional rights to return them under the Consumer Contracts Regulations

You can cancel your order for most goods bought online anytime from the moment you place your order up to 14 days from the day you receive it. 

There are some orders where you won't have the right to cancel, which you can read about in our guide on cancelling online orders.

You are then responsible for returning the goods within 14 calendar days of when you cancel, and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after the return of the goods (or after evidence is provided that they were returned).

But as with shopping on the high street, retailers often extend their returns period at Christmas so it's worth checking their policies for any additional time.

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