10 Important Facts You Should Know About Your Consumer Rights

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With the sales shopping season in full swing, it’s more important than ever that you don’t get caught out by nasty shopping surprises. Here are 10 consumer rights facts every shopper should know.

Many a shopper has bellowed “I know my rights!” to a shop assistant, but do you really know what you are (and aren’t) entitled to?

When it comes to refunds, faulty goods, and exchanging items, some of the answers may surprise you.

So below are 10 of the most useful (and/or surprising) consumer rights facts that everyone should know:

1. Change your mind?

When you buy something from a shop, you don’t have the legal right to a refund just because you change your mind, don’t like the style, or have bought the wrong size. Many shops will allow you to exchange or claim a refund – but they don’t have to. (The exception to this rule is if they have a published returns policy allowing exchanges or refunds). So always check the returns policy.

2. But online you can be fussy…

If you buy goods online, you have the right to a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period from the date you receive the product. You can send your items back for a full refund during this period – even if it’s just because you changed your mind.

3. Buying a gift?

Legally, only the person who bought the gift has the right to return faulty goods (though many shops do allow other people to make returns). If you’re not sure, make a note on the receipt (“Bought as a gift for Joe Bloggs”) to transfer the rights to the gift recipient. Ideally, add a note on the receipt the shop keeps for its records.

4. The price isn’t always right

A shop doesn’t have to sell items to you at the displayed price. So if a store has accidentally priced a Rolex at £10 instead of £1,000, they don’t have to honour that. More’s the pity.

5. You don’t need a receipt to return faulty goods

All you need is proof of purchase – so a bank or credit card statement should be sufficient.

Never post the originals off – always make a photocopy and keep the original for your records.

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6. Don’t hang around with refunds

If something is faulty or not of satisfactory quality, you can usually get a full refund if you return it within four weeks. If you leave it longer than that you may only get an exchange, part-refund or repair.

7. Be careful with contracts

You don’t always have a right to cancel a contract – if there’s no cancellation provision specifically mentioned, you probably don’t, so make sure you read the small print.

8. Getting presents delivered?

If the delivery men can’t get your parcels through your letterbox, they don’t have to return it to the warehouse – they can legally leave it on your doorstep or charge you to take it back. Check the delivery policy if in doubt.

9. Make sure the delivery date is specified

If you buy goods online, they must be delivered within the time period the retailer has specified. If no time period is specified, the statutory time limit is 30 days (unless you have agreed otherwise).

If the supplier is unable to meet this, they must inform you before the end of the 30-day deadline. They may offer you an alternative date for delivery – but you are under no obligation to accept and can ask for a full refund.

For purchases made on the high street, if you don’t specify a delivery date the Sale of Goods Act only states that the shop must deliver in ‘reasonable time’ – which is rather looser!

10. Credit cards can be your friend

Buy £100 or more worth of goods on your credit card and you get extra legal protection (as the credit card company is jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong). However, only use a credit card if you know you can pay it off in full next month to avoid interest charges.

For shopping, a 0% purchase credit card is your best bet (these allow you to spread the cost of purchases without paying any interest). You can compare the best 0% purchase cards here.

Having trouble enforcing your rights?

If a shop or company is ignoring or refusing to acknowledge your consumer rights, and all else fails, you can make a claim against them through the small claims court. (Note that the small claims court only covers England and Wales, and the claim must be under £10,000).

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