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Your refund rights explained

When you buy something online or in-store, you’re taking a leap of faith. But what if you change your mind? Is the company refusing refunds? It’s vital that you know your consumer protection rights.

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If you buy goods and services and you’re not happy, you might want a refund. The good news is you’re often protected by important consumer laws that can smooth your journey. The bad news is that the rules are complicated and change depending on what you bought, why you want the refund and whether you’re shopping online or in-person.

There’s also a lot of extra protection available. For instance, if you pay by credit card. It’s useful to know about these beforehand so that you can make the right choice when paying for something expensive like a holiday.

Here we explain all your rights when it comes to getting a refund.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations are the two pieces of legislation that set refund rights for consumers. The main points and rights conferred include:

  • You have 30 days to return faulty goods and receive a full refund

  • You’re entitled to ask for a refund or price reduction after one failed attempt by the retailer to repair or replace a faulty item. Or you can request another repair or price reduction at no extra cost

  • No deductions can be made from a refund within the first six months after purchase, except for motor vehicles.

You have rights when buying:

  • Goods

  • Services

  • Digital content.

You can read the full details of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 at gov.uk.

Reasons you might want to return an item

There are lots of reasons why you might want to return something. Here’s a rundown of some of those reasons, and your rights in each situation.

If you’ve changed your mind

In store

If you’ve bought something in a shop but got home and changed your mind, you’re not automatically guaranteed to get a refund. 

Retailers each have their own policy on unwanted goods. Some give a full refund and others might just offer an exchange or gift voucher, but these are both goodwill gestures - legally they don’t even have to do that. 

Usually, larger stores have better returns policies for unwanted goods. Always check the returns policy before you buy and keep hold of your receipt. If the store has a published returns policy, that makes it a contractual agreement that they have to stick to.

Ahead of Christmas, it’s worth checking store policies carefully. Some offer extended returns periods to make it easier for people to return unwanted gifts. Some will give you your money back, while others will only offer a credit note. Compare policies carefully before you decide where to shop.


When you shop online, you have a 14-day grace period to change your mind after receiving the item. This is enshrined in law under the Consumer Contracts Regulations. Once you’ve changed your mind, you then have a further 14 days to return the item.

It doesn’t matter why you’ve changed your mind. These distance-selling regulations apply to all purchases where you’ve bought the item away from the seller’s premises. That includes purchases made online, by postal order, over the phone and through TV shopping channels.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. You won’t be entitled to return the following types of items:

  • Those that have been made to your specifications or personalised

  • Those that are perishable (like flowers or fresh food)

  • Those that were sealed on delivery but have now been opened (such as DVDs or computer games)

  • Those that date quickly, such as newspapers, magazines or periodicals

  • Anything based on betting, gaming or lotteries

  • Events tickets

  • Digital goods (such as music downloads).

Of course, if an item bought online turns out to be faulty, then you’re protected by the same rights that apply to purchases made in person. The retailer must also cover the cost of return.

There’s a problem with your shopping

If there’s a problem with your item, you’re entitled to a refund whether you bought it online or in store. You don’t even need the receipt – you just need to be able to prove the purchase, so you could use a bank statement.

This falls under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and overrides the retailer’s own returns policy. This would apply if the item:

  • Isn’t of satisfactory quality

  • Isn’t as described online

  • Isn’t fit for purpose

  • Doesn’t last for a reasonable amount of time.

It’s irrelevant if the item was in the sale when you bought it. 

If you’ve got an item that was faulty or damaged at the time of sale, it needs to be returned to the retailer within 30 days for a refund. 

If the staff ask you to return it to the manufacturer you should challenge this, as it’s the retailer’s responsibility to handle the problem for you. If you return a faulty item after this time, you may have to settle for a repair or replacement.

If a fault with your item emerges over time, you’re still entitled to a refund, repair or replacement from the retailer – it’s generally easier to get a refund if the item’s less than six months old. 

In any case, return the item to the retailer. It is obliged to handle the return by law. Staff may try to direct you to the manufacturer but if you know your rights they can’t fob you off in this way.

If an item is more than six months old, you’ll need to prove to the retailer that the fault was present at the time of sale to be guaranteed a refund. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you have six years from the date of purchase to return a faulty item. In Scotland, it’s only five years.

If you’ve damaged your goods through wear and tear, an accident or misuse

It’s worth noting that you don’t have any legal rights to return an item if it’s been damaged by wear and tear, an accident or misuse. You also don’t have legal rights to return an item if you knew about the fault before you bought it. 

What if I’m offered a credit note?

A retailer can only offer you a credit note if you’re returning something because you’ve changed your mind. If there’s a problem with your item, you should be offered a refund as long as you’re returning it within 30 days.

How long should a refund take?

Your refund should be paid within 14 days of your return being received – and it should also include a refund of the standard delivery cost. This applies to items you buy and also services you sign up for.

Can a company refuse a refund?

Retailers don’t always play ball, even if you’re within your rights. It might be tricky to get your money back, which is why it’s so important to know where you stand.

If you can’t get the support you need from the retailer in the form of a refund, repair or replacement, you can file a complaint with the company.

If that still doesn’t help, you can contact the Consumer Ombudsman. They’ll aim to help resolve your dispute within 10 working days.

Another option is to head to the Resolver website for more help about making a shopping complaint.

When should you rely on the manufacturer’s warranty?

Any manufacturer’s guarantee that you have on a product is an extra, on top of your statutory rights with the retailer. The retailer should always be your first port of call when a product turns out to be faulty. They shouldn’t just refer you to the manufacturer.

You might have a guarantee or a warranty:

  • Guarantee – there are usually free but you often have to complete a form and send it to the manufacturer to validate it

  • Warranty – you usually pay extra for a warranty and it’s more like an insurance policy.

A guarantee can sometimes be more generous than your statutory rights. It can give you another route to resolve a problem. This is particularly helpful if you bought the item more than six months ago.

If you paid for an extended manufacturer’s warranty when you bought the item, this could give you even more extra rights. For example, you might get longer lasting cover and it could even include protection against accidental damage.

What happens if goods are damaged in transit?

It’s the retailer's responsibility to make sure your purchase arrives in a timely and satisfactory condition. They’re responsible for giving you a refund, repair or replacement if the goods are lost or damaged during transit.

What are my rights if I bought an item on offer?

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve bought your item on offer or second hand – all the refund rights shared in this guide still apply.

What if the company’s gone into administration and I need to return an item?

Getting a refund from a company that’s entered administration can be tricky. You’ll be put into a queue with all the company’s business creditors, and the situation will be assessed.

If the business isn’t sold or restructured, or if it’s liquidated, you’ll only get a proportion of what you’re owed.

If a company’s gone into administration and your goods haven’t been delivered, you can speak to your credit card provider, if that’s how you paid. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have the right to claim a refund from your credit card provider if something goes wrong.

What’s Amazon's returns policy?

Amazon is the UK’s leading e-commerce website. Amazon and the majority of its third-party sellers offer returns for most items within 30 days of receipt of delivery. Items must be returned in the same condition as they were on dispatch. This means that the products must be returned with no additional signs of use or damage.

Keep in mind that when purchasing from third-party sellers on Amazon, it's possible that their returns policy may be different. Always check before you make a purchase.

Shopping tips

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself when shopping.

  • Keep your proof of purchase. Most retailers will ask for proof of purchase when you return an item. They want to see that it was bought from them, and when you bought it. Try to keep your receipts. But if you don’t have the receipt, a credit card statement or cheque stub may be accepted.

  • Inspect the item. Doing a thorough inspection of the item you’re buying before you pay for it will help you to ensure that it’s not faulty at the time of purchase.

  • Ask about the retailer’s return policy. It’s important to know about this before you buy your item. You might be able to buy the same item from another retailer with a better returns policy.

  • Pay with a credit card. You always have better protection if you pay for goods with a credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have the right to claim a refund from your credit card provider if something goes wrong. This extra protection applies when you buy an item that costs between £100 and £30,000 so, if the item is over £100, think about using your credit card. If the seller goes bust or fails to deliver your item, you can approach your credit card company to get your money back.

  • Return items as quickly as possible. You’re much more likely to get a refund if you return an item within 30 days. After that, you’re more likely to get a repair, replacement or partial refund.

  • Ask the store to note on the receipt if you’re buying an item as a gift. Ideally, this should be on the part of the receipt that the store keeps. Legally, only the person who bought the item has the right to return it. But, with a gift receipt, the right transfers to the recipient.

  • Within six months. The shop must prove goods weren't faulty when they sold them – after that, you must prove that they were. These time limits define when you should take faulty goods back. They're totally separate to the "reasonable length of time", which defines what count as faulty in the first place. What's “reasonable”? It depends on the situation. Imagine asking a sensible friend's opinion. If you asked "is it reasonable for a £2,000 plasma telly to break after nine months?”, they'd probably say no. But it probably is reasonable for a £5 torch to conk out in nine months.

You can read our guide on how Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act protects your credit card purchases.  Or, for a full definition of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, visit the gov.uk website.

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