Christmas is a time for splurging, whether you’re shopping for presents or snapping up bargains in the seasonal sales.
But when the new year calls an end to the festive period, you may well have a couple of spending regrets.
Do you really need another kitchen gadget? And when will you ever wear those sparkly tights?
Well, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that certain consumer rights apply, even during the sale period, but the bad news is that they may be significantly less than what you’re expecting.
Consumer rights legislations on refunds
Two consumer rights legislations apply to UK retailers: The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013.
The latter can be considered an extension of the Consumer Rights Act for items you buy remotely, such as online, from a catalogue, or from a TV shopping channel.
For retailers outside of the UK, you’ll need to turn to the consumer rights legislation of that country – although you may have better luck making a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (if you used a credit card) or initiating a chargeback via your card issuer.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 legislates the agreement made between the buyer and seller, and gives the buyer certain rights.
Under this legislation, the item being sold must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and be as described.
If any of those three criteria aren’t met, the seller is in breach of contract and the buyer has the right to seek redress.
For example, if you buy a blender and it’s missing a part, then it’s not as described and you’d be entitled to redress.
As for the redress, this includes the right to ask for a refund within 30 days of the sale, a repair or replacement within six months, or a discount or refund if any repairs are not acceptable.
After six months, it’s a bit more tricky to get a refund (although not impossible) as you’ll need to prove the product was faulty at the time of purchase.
What the legislation doesn’t cover is your right to a refund if you’ve simply changed your mind – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get one (more below).
Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013
If your purchase falls under the category of distance selling, such as from a website or catalogue, then the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 also applies.
For a faulty item, your rights are exactly the same as those under the Consumer Credit Act; the seller has to cover the cost of returning the items as well.
But unlike the Consumer Credit Act, you also have 14 days in which to change your mind – the countdown starts the day you receive your purchase.
It means if for whatever reason you no longer want the item – whether it’s because you don’t like the colour or simply no longer need it – you can return it for a full refund provided it’s in a saleable condition.
There are a few exceptions here, including if the product is personalised, perishable, or related to gambling.
Your rights to a refund if you’ve changed your mind
If you’ve changed your mind, getting a refund from a distance seller is comparatively straightforward since you have 14 days’ grace period by law.
The only thing to bear in mind is that unlike for a faulty item, the seller is under no obligation to refund the postage fees for returns and, if it’s a heavy item, that can be quite costly.
Things are a little bit more complicated if you’ve made the purchase in person.
The Consumer Rights Act sort of assumes that as you’ve seen the product and are happy with it at the point of sale, you shouldn’t need to change your mind.
It means that legally, a retailer isn’t obligated to refund you at all – except we all know buyer’s remorse.
Fortunately, most larger retailers have their own returns policy and will offer a refund if you have proof of purchase and return the item in a saleable condition within 28 days.
Note that some refunds are only offered as store credits.
Refund for items bought in a sale
Even in a sale, the rules for distance selling remain the same – you have 14 days to change your mind.
But when it comes to in-person purchases, things are slightly different again.
Most notably, you may not be covered if an item is faulty since it could be the reason why it’s on sale in the first place – it all depends on whether or not you were told about the fault when you bought it.
The retailer might advertise the fault via a tag on the item or on a placard close by so it’s worth looking out for these.
If the fault was advertised at the time of sale then you won’t be able to return it, but if it wasn’t advertised and you find out after you get home, you will still be entitled to a refund.
As for returns because you’ve changed your mind, you’ll need to turn to the store’s own returns policy since retailers have no legal obligations to issue refunds in this case.
And during the sales period, there may be a slightly different refund policy or the store may decline refunds full stop.