Buying and returning goods
What are my consumer rights when buying in a shop?
When you buy something in a shop you are protected by consumer law. You enter into a contract with the business you buy from. The business agrees to provide the product to you for a certain price. Under consumer law, the item must be:
- Of merchantable quality – it must be of a reasonable and acceptable standard.
- Fit for the purpose intended – it must be capable of being used for its purpose, for example, a kettle should be able to boil water.
- As described – it must match the description given verbally or in an advertisement. False or exaggerated claims should not be made by the business.
When you buy something, you should be dealt with fairly by the business. The business should act in good faith, not mislead you about the product and avoid using harassment, coercion or undue influence.
I bought something that I don’t want to keep
There is a difference between a faulty item, and returning an item because you’ve changed your mind. For example if you didn’t try something on, and it turns out it’s the wrong size, this does not mean the clothes are not fit for purpose.
If you change your mind, or the item doesn’t fit, you do not have rights under consumer law. If you return the item, the shop does not have to offer you a refund or a replacement, if there’s nothing wrong with it. However, many shops will accept returns in these circumstances, and offer you an exchange or refund, though often with conditions. For example, you may have to return the item within a certain number of days and you usually need to provide proof of purchase. Also, you may need to original packaging and labels must be intact. But the shop does not have to do this and it is a gesture of goodwill.
Some shops may only offer an exchange or refund on full-price goods. Because you are not automatically entitled to a refund or exchange if you change your mind, a shop can change its policy on returns or exchanges, especially during sales periods. Always check the returns policy before you buy. If a shop does offer exchanges or refunds if you change your mind, they may only give you a refund in the form of a credit note or gift voucher for the shop, rather than giving you your money back.
Can I return a gift I don’t want?
You have no legal right to return items bought in shops, unless they are faulty. However, many retailers have customer-friendly policies around returns and may offer refunds or exchanges. If you are returning a gift you received because you don’t want it, the shop can set their own conditions for returns such as having proof of purchase. Examples of proof of purchase can include a gift receipt, the original receipt from the person who bought it or a debit or credit card statement. Please be advised that the shop can choose which form of proof of purchase it will accept.
|Remember, whether there is a sale or not, you are not automatically entitled to a refund or exchange if you simply change your mind. The shop’s own returns policy may be different when something is bought in a sale, so check the policy with the shop before you buy.|
There is no obligation on a business to give you a receipt. However, you should always ask for one. Receipts are an easy way to prove you bought something in a particular store. However, a receipt is not the only way to prove proof of purchase. If you wish to return something that is faulty for example, one of the following may also be acceptable as proof of purchase:
- a credit or debit card statement
- an invoice
- if the product is own-brand and has clearly come from the retailer in question, this may be accepted as proof of purchase
However, if you wish to return an item due to a change of mind, and if it is the shop’s policy to accept returns, the shop can prescribe what proof of purchase it will accept, for example, they may insist on you having a receipt / gift receipt.
Last updated on 17 September 2021