Christmas Shopping – Know Your Rights

After a very strange Christmas period last year, we are all hoping for a normal Christmas this year and for many people this means lots of Christmas shopping. 

Whether you shop on the High Street, or Online, it is important that you are aware of your rights. Thomas Sedley, a solicitor in the Dispute Resolution team at our Bury office, has prepared the following guide to help you understand your consumer rights at Christmas so you are not left out of pocket.

Online Shopping Rights

Are my rights different from the High Street?

Whether you purchase Online or from the High Street, there are standard consumer protections that apply entitling you to goods which:

  • Fit the description.
  • Are of satisfactory quality (i.e. no defects)
  • Are suitable for the intended purpose.

If there is an issue with any of the above, you are entitled to a refund in full. As your contract is with the retailer, and not the courier who delivers the item (if bought online), you should contact the retailer directly to ask for a refund.  

In addition to these standard protections, for purchases made ‘at a distance’ (i.e. online, mail order, over the phone) you have the right to cancel your order up to 14 days after you receive the goods (sometimes referred to as a ‘cooling off’ period) and receive a full refund, including standard postage costs (but not if you paid extra for express delivery). You then have a further 14 days from the date you notify the retailer of your cancellation to return the goods. When returning items, you should always obtain proof of postage.

Please note however that this does not apply to downloads or to many personalised or perishable items.

What if I bought something from Facebook Marketplace? 

There has been a sharp increase in the use of online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace. It is important, therefore, to know who you are buying the product from; ie, a private seller or a business trader. If you are buying products from a private seller then your rights are the same as if you were buying from an advert in a local paper, and the principle of ‘let the buyer beware’ applies. However, the goods you receive must be as they were described to you by the seller. There’s no obligation on the seller to disclose any faults, but misrepresenting goods isn’t allowed.

If, however, you are buying from a registered trader or retailer on Amazon or Ebay, then your rights are no different than if you’d bought from any other online store.

Do I have to accept Store Credit Vouchers? 

Some retailers may try and provide you with vouchers instead of a cash refund. If you are returning items because they are faulty or within the 14 day ‘cooling off’ period set out above, then you do not have to accept a voucher and are entitled to a cash refund. 

When will the product be delivered?

Online companies have up to 30 days to deliver goods unless otherwise agreed (i.e. you request special delivery). If the delivery is late or damaged, then you should contact the retailer direct as your contract is with them. 

What if I used a Credit Card to buy goods?

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, if you purchased goods valued between £100 and £30,000, your credit card company is equally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the retailer or trader. This right is particularly useful if the retailer or trader has ceased trading and can be used for goods bought online or on the high street.

High Street Shopping Rights

What are my rights? 

As set out above, the standard consumer protections regarding faulty and unfit goods apply equally to goods bought online and on the high street. However, there is no 14 day cooling off period for goods bought on the high street. 

What are the returns policies?

Most retailers in the UK offer enhanced return policies, but you should clarify this with each store. There is no automatic right to return or reject unwanted presents for a refund or store credit so always check the store policy before purchase.

Do I need a receipt?

When returning goods a proof of purchase is required. The best proof is a receipt but a bank statement may suffice. When shopping for gifts for others, ask for gift receipts. This enables the recipient to return the item. Please note that if you pay for an item on a debit or credit card, the refund will need to be transferred back onto the card used for payment.

What should I do before wrapping?

Check the gifts when you get home. If there is a problem, contact the store as soon as possible and take a photograph (showing the time and date).

What if the item does not work and has been gifted?

If goods are defective and have not been misused you are entitled to a free repair, a replacement or full refund, provided the fault is identified within the first six months after purchase.

However strong the legal protection, some sellers will not obey the rules. If this happens to you, you should seek legal advice on how best to enforce your rights. 

an image of Tom Sedley, a Butcher & Barlow LLP employee

Tom Sedley

For more information, or with a specific query, contact Thomas Sedley on 0161 764 4062 or email tsedley@butcher-barlow.co.uk

You may also be interested in reading Christmas on Credit – Know Your Rights.