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Shopping rights: know what you can and can’t demand

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

You may think you’re in the right when demanding a discount, refund or return, but make sure you’re armed with the facts when hitting the shops.

Shoppers are afforded a host of protections, both when buying goods and services online, and in-store.

But there are common misconceptions which can trip you up and cost you money.

The money experts at Promotionalcodes have listed the biggest myths when it comes to exercising your consumer rights.

Darren Williams of Promotionalcodes, said: “Now that we’re in the height of sales season and post-Christmas returns, it’s especially important shoppers understand their rights.

“We don’t want people to be left out of pocket because they thought they were entitled to refunds when they weren’t.

“Similarly, we also want people to know when they can demand a refund and how to protect themselves.”

The biggest myths:

1) Shops are legally obliged to sell goods at the displayed price

A shop doesn’t have to sell you an item at its displayed price if it is a genuine error, although it is illegal to mislead consumers deliberately.

2) Rights are the same for online shopping as in-store

They’re actually better online. While an in-store contract is made when you have paid, for an online store you may not have your contract until your item has been sent to you. This means you might not have a contract even if you’ve received a confirmation email, and your order could be cancelled if the price was mistaken. You’ll need to check the terms and conditions to see when your contract would begin.

On the plus side, you do have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period for online purchases from businesses (not private individuals), starting from the day you receive the item. This is to enable you to see the product properly before you make up your mind, so you can return it for any reason.

There are exceptions, such as if the goods are bespoke or perishable.

3) If you change your mind, you can return the goods within 28 days

If there’s nothing wrong with the item and you’ve just decided you don’t like it, you don’t actually have an automatic right to a refund. That said, most shops have policies for returns and will honour them, even though they don’t legally have to, and will often extend the return period after Christmas. Keep the receipts and original packaging.

The exception is if you’re within the 14-day cooling off period for an online purchase, as above.

Some goods, such as earrings for pierced ears, may not be returnable even under a shop’s policy.

4) You need a receipt to return faulty goods

No you don’t, though you may need to prove purchase somehow (eg a bank statement). If the item is faulty, not as described or doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, you are entitled to a full refund, unless you knew the item was faulty when you bought it. You also can’t return it if you caused the fault.

5) The postal service is responsible for parcels that don’t arrive

No. The seller has the legal responsibility to ensure delivery, not the courier. If your item doesn’t arrive within 30 days of purchase, or by a date you agree with the seller, they owe you a replacement or refund.

6) Credit card purchases are protected by the card provider

Yes – for goods and services costing between £100 and £30,000. Your credit provider will refund you if the firm folds before you get your goods, or if they’re faulty and the business refuses to rectify it. Be careful with things like train tickets, as two single journeys could be classed as two transactions and might not meet the cost threshold individually. (You would also not be covered if you chose not to take the journey.)

There are exceptions to this protection, such as loans and balance transfers.

7) You don’t need a gift receipt

As we know, shops don’t have to refund you, but probably will if you can prove purchase and the goods are unused. If a shop is prepared to refund or exchange a gift for its recipient, it will probably want a gift receipt.