Consumer rights

A guide to your rights when purchases aren't suitable, are faulty and when they are duplicate gifts.

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Now Christmas has been and gone, it’s time to take down the tree and put the gifts away. But what consumer rights do you have when purchases aren’t quite what you wanted, are faulty, or you realise someone else has bought the same gift? Find out your rights and discover the rules that apply when buying goods.??

‘When a gift is purchased in a shop, a contract is formed between the purchaser and the retailer,’ explains Claire Thirlwall, of Lester Aldridge LLP. ‘If a gift needs to be returned, the purchaser’s contractual rights need to be assigned to the recipient of the gift. Some retailers enable this assignment to take place by issuing a gift receipt, although they are not legally obliged to accept a return unless the item is faulty or unfit for purpose. However, most retailers accept returns of unwanted items in the interests of maintaining customer goodwill. Therefore, it is important to check the returns policy of the retailer, ideally before the gift is purchased.’??

When shopping online, the rules are slightly different. Unlike high street shoppers, buyers online have an unconditional right to cancel under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000. This starts from the moment a purchase is made and ends seven working days after the date the goods were received, which is also known as the cooling-off period. During this time, goods do not need to be returned, but the seller must receive written notification of the buyer’s intention to cancel. When the order has been cancelled, the regulations place the buyer under a duty to ‘restore’ the goods to the seller – meaning the goods must be returned and a refund given within 30 days of cancellation. ??

Claire Thirlwall says: ‘You must remember that the right to cancel does not apply to certain goods, such as CDs, DVDs, personalised items and perishable goods. However, for returnable items, many sellers offer extended return periods and accept gift returns.’??

When shopping online or in-store, Which? recommends remembering the following:??

– The Sale of Goods Act states that goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality, and fit for purpose. If the presents you buy fail to meet these standards, you have the right to make a claim to the retailer.??

– If an item ordered arrives damaged, it is the seller’s responsibility to explain the reason and offer a solution. You should not be told to take up the issue with the delivery company or courier.??

– If a parcel is left with a neighbour without your permission and the neighbour denies having it, you can ask the seller to resend the item without an extra cost to you.??

– When an expected delivery date has passed and your package is late, you can either cancel your order or may be able to claim compensation.??

– Purchasing on eBay is great for finding a bargain, but it is useful to bear in mind the seller’s rating and feedback before bidding.??

– Perishable items bought online are not eligible for return. This includes food, flowers, personalised items and products that have been made to order.

??Have you experienced problems when shopping online or in-store?

(Image: Which?)