Buying 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 ask for proof of purchase. This can be a gift receipt, the original receipt from the person who bought it or a debit or credit card statement.

Top tip
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 buy.
Receipts

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. You could also use:

  • A credit or debit card statement
  • An invoice
  • A cheque book stub
  • If the product is own-brand and has clearly come from the retailer in question this may be accepted as proof of purchase

Find out more about your rights if you need to return something.  If you shop online, you have even stronger consumer rights. Find out more about buying online.

 

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