Christmas Shopping and your Consumer Rights

christmas tree

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, retailers will begin offering products with discounts too tempting to refuse. However, many consumers will find themselves purchasing gifts and other goods, which they decide they wish to return, once the lure of a bargain has worn off.

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Boxing Day sales fast approaching, now is a good time to familiarise yourself with your rights as a consumer, so that you don’t find yourself in a difficult position further down the line.

Returns and exchanges

Contrary to popular belief, retailers are not legally obliged to allow the return of goods which are not faulty. Generally, retailers do offer a returns policy, whereby the return of unopened or unused goods will be accepted, usually within a specified timeframe of 14 or 28 days. Often, retailers will extend their returns policy around the festive season.

Our advice is to check a store’s returns policy before purchase, to make sure that you know where you stand, should you change your mind, especially if purchasing gifts. Any published returns policy will form part of your legal contract for purchase, and the retailer must honour the policy, if you choose to return the goods.

Some retailers will permit consumers to exchange purchases for other goods or store credit, but will not give refunds for returned goods, and it is important to familiarise yourself with a retailer’s policy before purchasing, particularly for more expensive purchases.

Different rules apply to online purchases. The Consumer Contracts Regulations gives consumers 14 days to cancel orders, and 14 days from receipt to return the goods, in most cases.

Additional protection is offered under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for purchases made using a credit card, subject to certain restrictions.

Faulty Goods

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out that goods purchased must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. In simple terms, the goods should be as you would reasonably expect, and mustn’t have any faults or defects.

If the goods are faulty, consumers have a statutory right to reject the goods for a full refund within 30 days. If, for some reason, the 30 day period is missed, or if the goods are discovered to be faulty outside this stipulated time frame, the retailer must be given an opportunity to repair or replace the goods. If the repair is unsuccessful, or if the goods cannot be replaced, then the retailer must give the consumer a refund, but is entitled to give a partial refund in certain circumstances.

What to do if a retailer refuses to repair or replace faulty goods

If you have purchased goods which you discover to be faulty, and the retailer refuses to repair, replace or refunds the goods in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you may need to seek legal advice on your individual circumstances.

The key is to act quickly, once a fault is discovered, as there are time limits which will impact on whether you can bring a claim, and its likelihood of success. Within the first six months, it is for the retailer to prove that the fault was not there at the time of purchase, whereas this onus switches after the first six months, and it is for the consumer to prove that it was.

Our advice is to always check a retailer’s policy before making a purchase, and if a fault is discovered, contact the retailer immediately.

As mentioned above, there are various exceptions and intricacies to this legislation. For example, the rules for purchases of vehicles and digital content such as games, apps and films differ slightly, and so it is important to seek advice from a legal expert when considering any action under the consumer rights legislation. The above is intended as general guidance only, and you should seek specific legal advice on your individual circumstances.

If you’d like to find out more about the legal services offered by Smith Partnership, don’t hesitate to contact us via info@smithpartnership.co.uk. Alternatively, speak to a member of our team directly on 0330 123 1229.

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