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25 Oct 2021

Shopping shortages: check returns policies before buying Christmas presents early, Which? warns

Retailers ramp up pressure to start Christmas shopping, but will they honour returns?

Which? is warning shoppers to check retailers' returns policies before buying any gifts, as we found not all retailers have extended their returns policies yet.

Toy retailers have joined the chorus of warnings of potential shortages this Christmas, calling on shoppers to buy early to avoid disappointment.

Various disruptions to supply chains are the driving force behind these warnings, with chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, Andrew Goodacre, advising customers to start their normal shopping process earlier.

'If you see something you want, now is the time to buy as retailers have most of their Christmas stock, but we can't guarantee having supplies of everything over the next few weeks', he told the BBC.

Christmas present pressure

Buying gifts comes with the best intentions, but we can't always get it right and that's where we rely on a good returns policy and the ability to swap a gift for something more appropriate.

Our survey found one in seven had to return or exchange an unwanted item, and just under half (48%) experienced difficulties when making a return* last Christmas.

Many retailers have been unveiling their Christmas promotions, last week Amazon announced its top ten toys for Christmas 2021, which included a Pictionary Air Harry Potter, Squeakee The Balloon Dino and Paw Patroller 2.0.

Undoubtedly parents will be starting to feel the pressure of getting hold of those most desirable toys to avoid disappointments.

Returns policies

With retailers warning of toy shortages and the pressure of Christmas shopping mounting, we took a look at some of the top UK toy retailers' returns policies to see what they are currently offering.

RetailerUsual returns policyExtended returns policy
AmazonReturnable items within 30 days of delivery.Not yet extended.
Most items sold and fulfilled by Amazon between 1 November 2021 and 31 December 2021 can be returned until 31 January 2022.
ArgosReturn an unwanted item within 30 days of purchase. Exchanges are dependent on current stock levels, refund offered if unable to offer an exchange.Items purchased from Sunday 17 October through to Saturday 25 December can be returned up to Monday 24 January.
HamleysRefund for unwanted toys within 60 days of purchase and 90 days for an exchangeNot yet extended.
John Lewis & PartnersReturns within 35 days for a refund or exchange. Online and telephone orders must be returned in full within 14 days for a refund of the delivery charge.Returns window extended to 28 January for unwanted items for items purchased between 1 October 2021 and 24 December 2021.
SmythsReturns within 28 days of purchase.Items purchased from 6 September 2021 can be returned until 31 January 2022. Excludes Software and Nursery Returns.
The EntertainerReturns within 28 days of purchase.Any purchase made between 1st October and 24th December 2021 can be returned up until 21st January 2022, with a valid till or gift receipt.

Rights to a refund or exchange

Retailers promoting Christmas shopping now and encouraging people to buy early to avoid disappointment should ensure they're offering a suitable returns policy to allow their customers peace of mind.

Shoppers should double-check the retailer's returns policies, which will be available on the retailer's website, or clearly displayed in-store.

No retailers' returns policy will affect your statutory rights, which are covered by the Consumer Rights Act.

The Consumer Rights Act gives you the legal right to either get a refund for goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, or get it repaired - depending on how long you've owned it:

  • 0 - 30 days - you're entitled to a full refund for goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.
  • 30 days - six months - you must give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace it before you can claim a refund
  • six months or more - you must give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace it before you can claim a partial refund, and the burden of proof is on you to prove the product is faulty

Your right to a refund starts on the day that you take ownership of the item - so either the day you purchased the item and took it away or the date you received them in delivery.

If you've purchased something that has turned out to be faulty, you can use our free faulty goods complaint letter to ask for a refund, repair or replacement under the Consumer Rights Act.

*Survey of 2,100 residents of the UK online between the 12th - 14th February 2021