Christmas is all about giving. But what happens if the gift you so lovingly bought doesn’t work – or the recipient really doesn’t like it? These are two separate problems governed by different rules. And consumer rights law is jolly complicated. It depends how you bought something – and how long it is ‘reasonable’ to assume something should last.
Firstly, let’s look at presents that aren’t faulty but you or the recipient just doesn’t like. Here, buying online helps as then you’re covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations. This means you have 14 days to cancel your order and 14 days on top of that to send the goods back. So if you don’t think the gift you’ve bought online is suitable, you can send it back (possibly you’ll have to pay postage) for a refund. If you buy in a shop, then you don’t have an automatic right just to change your mind: many will, however, give you a refund.
If the recipient of the present doesn’t like your gift they don’t have an automatic right to return it for a refund. If you give them the receipt (get a gift receipt when you buy the item) then many retailers will give a refund for an unloved present – as long as it’s within a set period of time (usually around 30-40 days of purchase). There’s chapter and verse on all of this at Moneysavingexpert here.
With faulty goods you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act. This means that an item has to be what it says it is and last for a reasonable amount of time. What’s reasonable comes down to sense: you would expect a £1,000 camera to last for a good few years, but a £5 kid’s toy might reasonably be expected not to last more than a year. If goods are faulty and you return them to the shop they were bought from (don’t return to the manufacturer: it’s the shop which is responsible) within six months then it’s up to the shop to prove that the item wasn’t faulty when you bought it. After six months says MSE, the burden of proving something was faulty when you bought it falls on you. However, many shops will extend this period – electrical retailers often cover items for at least a year. It’s also a good idea to pay on your credit card for another layer of protection if your goods are faulty or don’t arrive.
If you do return something for being faulty after six months, you might not get a full refund but have to agree to a partial refund or a replacement. Even with all these rules I’ve had some really unpleasant experiences with companies when returning faulty goods – notably a tablet which went kaput within a year. The retailer first of all denied I’d even bought it from them and then tried to make me take it back to their nearest branch (about 40 miles away) even though I’d bought it online. I should have taken notice of the how to complain effectively tips from our friend Helen here: have a read now – forearmed being forewarned etc..
See our guide to credit cards here