Can you return unwanted goods?

You are not automatically entitled to a refund just because you have changed your mind about a purchase. Instead, it is down to the goodwill and customer services policy of the retailer.

Many larger stores will be willing to offer a refund, credit note or exchange within a certain time frame, providing you have the receipt.

However, this is by no means a given which is why it is important to check a retailer's refund policy before you buy.

Where do you stand if you purchase faulty goods?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 any item you purchase from a retailer should be as described, of a satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This means that if a product turns out to be damaged or faulty at the time of sale, or if a fault emerges over time, you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement from the retailer.

Return the goods to the retailer - it is their responsibility to issue you with a repair, replacement or partial refund and not the manufacturer's (although they will most likely tell you otherwise).

How long do you have to return a fault item?

You have 30 days to reject your goods if they are of an unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described and receive a full refund.

If you return an item as faulty after 30 days but within 6 months of purchase, then the onus is on the retailer to prove otherwise. However, after 6 months the liability shifts and you will need to prove that the fault was present at the time of sale before a refund will be granted.

You have 6 years from the date of purchase for an item that turns out to be faulty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is 5 years from the date you discover the fault in Scotland.

It is worth bearing in mind that when you return an item the retailer is likely to ask for proof of purchase. While the most ideal proof of purchase is your receipt, if you do not have this, a credit card statement or cheque stub for the sale may also be accepted.

Can you get money back if you buy online?

When you buy goods online, over the phone or by post you have 14 days' grace after receiving your order (or signing up to a service) to change your mind and cancel, and this can be for any reason.

You will be protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which apply if you buy something away from the seller's premises, such as at home or at work.

You will however need to notify the retailer in writing within the 14 days, and you will get a further 14 days to return the goods. The retailer is then obliged to issue a full refund within 14 days of when you cancel the services or return the goods.

When you shop online there are a number of exceptions that you need to be aware of. These include goods that are:

  • Made to your specifications or personalised

  • Considered perishable (such as flowers or fresh food)

  • Sealed on delivery but have been opened (such as DVDs, CDs and computer games)

  • Newspapers, magazines or periodicals

  • Betting, gaming or lottery based

  • Event tickets

The Consumer Act Rights 2015 does cover any digital content you purchase, for example music downloads.

If an item you purchased online turns out to be faulty you are protected by the same rights that apply to purchases made in person. However, the retailer is also responsible for covering the cost of returns.

  • When should you use your warranty?
    Any warranty that you have on a product is in addition to your statutory rights with the retailer. This means that they should be your first port of call when a product turns out to be faulty - you should not simply be referred to the manufacturer.

  • Who pays for goods damaged in transit?
    It is the retailer's responsibility to ensure that your purchase arrives in a timely and satisfactory condition. This means that they are responsible for providing you with a refund, repair or replacement if the goods are lost or damaged during transit.

  • What about goods purchased on sale?
    All of the refund rights detailed above apply regardless of whether you purchase a product on sale or second hand.

What if the company is in administration?

If you want a refund from a company that has just entered into administration your task may be trickier. It is likely that you will be put into a queue with all of the company's other business creditors while the situation is assessed.

If the business cannot be sold or restructured with its current debt level (or if it is liquidated), you will only receive a proportion of the amount you are owed.

Each service may be reinstated by the administrator, particularly if enough customers kick up enough of a stink or the business is taken over.

How to complain to get a refund

Even if you are within your rights to receive a refund, that does not mean the shop or seller will immediately play ball, you may have to work to get your money back.

As long as you are clear about where you stand and know you are in the right, it should not take too much effort to get your voice heard.

Doorstop selling refund rights

Doorstep selling includes contracts you enter into away from the trader's premises, such as in your own home.

While doorstep selling is legal and many sellers are legitimate, it is still important to understand your rights in case the service offered does not meet your expectations.

Your right to cancel

Did you know

On the 13th June, 2014, the Consumer Contracts Regulations extended your rights when you take out a contract from a doorstep seller, from 7 days to a 14 day cooling off period.

You can cancel the contract within 14 days, although the provider can still charge you for any work completed before you cancel.

The trader also has an obligation to let you know your right to cancel. If they do not do this, you will be able to cancel up to 12 months later instead of just 14 days.