Do you know your consumer rights?

The Post, December 2019-January 2020 issue

For most people the next couple of months see an increase in spending as they prepare for the festive season.  Hopefully you will be pleased with your purchases, but if you aren’t do you know your rights as a consumer?  

Purchasing in a shop

If you purchased items in a shop and want to return them you are entitled to a full refund if you want to return the goods because they are faulty, not as described or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.  This doesn’t apply if you knew that an item was faulty when you purchased it (for example it was already reduced due to a minor imperfection).  If you have attempted to repair the item in anyway (either yourself or a third party), then you are not entitled to a refund. 

On the other hand, if you have simply changed your mind and no longer want an item because it is the wrong size or colour or you decide that you don’t like it then you are not automatically entitled to a refund.  Some shops will still be prepared to offer a refund or a credit note, but that is entirely at their discretion.

The same applies if you have purchased a personalised or custom-made item then you will not be entitled to a refund unless the goods are faulty.  The same applies to perishable items such as frozen food or flowers, newspapers and magazines and items that have been unwrapped such as CDs, DVDs or computer software.

Your rights to return goods and get a return are the same when you purchase items in a sale or at full price.  Goods purchased in a sale that are faulty must be refunded, unless they were on sale because they were faulty. 

However, a seller only has to accept returns from the person who bought the item, and you may have to provide the seller with proof that you purchased the item.  This could be a sales receipt or other evidence such as a bank statement or packaging.

Purchasing online, mail order or telephone order

You have additional rights to return goods and get a full refund when you purchase goods online, by mail order or telephone order even if the goods aren’t faulty.  These rights are imposed by “distance selling regulations”. 

You must contact the seller within 14 days of receiving your goods and tell them that you want to cancel your purchase. You do not have to give any reason for return (you can in these circumstances simply change your mind).  You have 14 days to return the goods (from the date that you notified the seller that you are returning them) and the seller must provide the full refund within 14 days of receiving the returned goods. 

Warranties and guarantees

A warranty or guarantee extends your rights to a refund or replacement.  However, even if you purchased goods without a warranty or guarantee you have a right to free repair or replacement if the goods were faulty.