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Your consumer rights at Christmas – what you need to know

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Dec 6, 2017


Started Christmas shopping yet?

If not, you’re one of millions of others who only really start thinking about what gifts to buy from the middle of December.

But when the gift buying gets going in earnest, we always get loads of questions about consumer rights and gifts – what can you do with that unwanted gift that you hate, or the three identical sweaters from different people?

Here’s a quick guide to your consumer rights at Christmas.

Christmas isn’t really any different to any other time of year. Your consumer rights still apply in the same way and you’re protected under the Consumer Rights Act.

A retailer’s duty

Retailers have a duty to provide goods that are the same as their description, that they must do what they say they can (be fit for purpose) and be safe.

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Faulty goods

So, if something you buy doesn’t comply with any one of the three requirements above, it can be classed as ‘faulty’. You can return the item and get your money back, and you have a maximum of 30 days to do that.

After 30 days

Even after 30 days, though, you still have rights if the item does not perform as expected or breaks down through something being inherently wrong with it.

You are entitled to either a replacement or a refund, but you can’t dictate which.

Who is responsible?

Whatever a retailer may try and tell you, it is they who are responsible for sorting out a problem under your consumer rights, NOT the manufacturer.

So, you always start your complaint with the retailer and continue discussions with them.

Receipts and refunds

Most reputable retailers will have a returns and refunds policy. And if you can prove you bought the item (with a credit card statement, for example) these will kick in.

But it’s always best to save receipts as absolute proof of purchase.

Be careful, though, as some stores with especially generous returns policies may decide to vary them over the busy Christmas period.

Getting a refund on a gift

This can be a problem, but how you stand will depend on the store, and many will be flexible over Christmas gifts because they want to encourage as many people as possible to buy.

Contacting the gift giver to ask for the receipt or the credit card used to buy the gift is often not really an option, so in this case you really will be in the hands of the retailer.

If the item is not faulty, you have no automatic right to a refund. 

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What to do if an item isn’t delivered

This is a very common problem at this time of year.

Courier companies are dealing with millions of deliveries, so even the most efficient will sometimes run into problems with getting deliveries right.

The golden rule here is that the retailer and NOT the courier company is responsible for the delivery because that’s who you paid and who you effectively have a contract with.

If you pay for fast delivery, you should be refunded this extra payment if the item is not delivered as per the contract, and if the delivery doesn’t happen at all the retailer is responsible for resending without further charge.

How long do retailers have to make a delivery before they have to resend an item

The usual period is a very long 30 days, unless you have agreed otherwise beforehand.

Obviously, it’s the gift you want delivered at this time of year on time and undamaged. But at least you won’t lose out financially.

If an item doesn’t arrive within an agreed timeframe – as in, say, before Christmas Day – then you have the absolute right to cancel and get a refund.

If your delivery is later than you agreed – and you needed it at a particular time, before Christmas Day for example – you have the right to cancel the order and get a full refund.

What are my consumer rights if I buy online?

In many ways, ordering online gives you more options for getting refunds.

You have up to 14 days of delivery to simply change your mind and cancel and get a full refund.

Be careful, though, because with personalised gifts – like an iPad with someone’s initials on the back, for example –  there is no automatic right of return. DVDs and CDs where the seal is damaged also can’t be returned automatically. The same applies, not surprisingly, to food items.

Some retailers will have particularly generous policies, like Amazon, for example.

Either way, your refund should be processed within 14 days of cancellation.

For more detailed information about your online shopping rights, visit our guide.

Good luck and Merry Christmas!