What's on

Your right to return goods

publication date: Jun 10, 2012
author/source: Dean Dunham
Dean DunhamFirstly, it is obviously bad news for a retailer when they have to accept a return and pay you back your money and for this reason many will try their best to dissuade you from this course of action, whether it be by convincing you to accept an exchange instead of a refund or simply telling you that you are not entitled to a refund. The good news is that the law is very straightforward and clear and the basic principles are as follows:

  1. Goods you buy should always be in a satisfactory condition, defect free and fit for the purpose they were intended when you receive them. If they are not, you are entitled to a FULL REFUND.
  2. If you change your mind about something that you have purchased, the retailer does not have to give you a refund IF this is the only reason for returning it.
  3. If you buy goods from a trader without having face-to-face contact with them, this is known as distance selling. In this situation you have rights on top of those you have when you buy goods in a shop. The most important of these is the right to a "cooling off" period. This gives you the right to cancel your order within seven working days of the order, without having to pay anything.

Here are some of the common arguments that retailers use and the truth behind them.

"We do not give refunds on sale items" Whether a retailer can do this or not depends on why the goods were on sale. If they were reduced in price because of a fault that was either pointed out to you or that you could have been 'reasonably' expected to notice before you bought it, then you are not entitled to a refund. But, if it was just on special offer or in the January sales, you are entitled to get your money back if it turns out to have a fault, to have been inaccurately described, or not fit for the purpose that it was sold for. 

"We don't offer refunds - you must accept a credit note."
This is only legally acceptable if the goods you are returning were of satisfactory quality, free from defect and fit for the purpose for which they were intended.

"We can't do anything without a receipt."
There is no legal obligation for shops to even give you a receipt, let alone for you to keep it. Shops should accept any proof of purchase, like a bank statement or credit card bill. 

"It is not my fault if it doesn't work. Make a complaint to the manufacturer."
It is the person who sold you the goods with whom you have made a contract. They are therefore responsible for dealing with any problems, and not the manufacturer. 

"It was fine when I sold it to you. You must have broken it!"
If something breaks and you inform the trader within six months of purchase it is the trader's duty to prove that the item had no fault at the time it was sold to you.

For further information about your consumer rights please visit Dean's website.