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Looking to return a Christmas gift? Here are your consumer rights…

Written by: Amanda Hamilton
While Christmas is known as the season for giving, January could prove to be the season for returning. If you are hoping to return a Christmas present, here are your consumer rights.

What do you do if, among your Christmas presents, there’s something you don’t like, or which turns out to be faulty? Can you return the items and get a refund?

Below, Amanda Hamilton, chief executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegels – a non-profit membership body for paralegals, explains what your consumer rights are.

Without a receipt there’s not a lot you can do. However, if you’re not shy to ask for a receipt, or the giver has offered you the opportunity to change the item, that’s different.

On 1 October 2015 a new statute called the Consumer Rights Act became law, which simplified the law and provided consumers with clearer shopping rights.

Product quality

As with previous legislation, under the Consumer Rights Act all products must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

The rules include digital content, such as apps or e-books. All products – whether physical or digital – must meet the following standards:

  • Satisfactory quality – Goods should not be faulty or damaged when you receive them.
  • Fit for purpose –They must be fit for the purpose they are supplied for, as well as any specific purpose made known to the retailer before agreeing to buy the goods.
  • As described – They must match any description given, models or samples shown at time of purchase.

If what you’ve bought doesn’t satisfy any one of the three criteria outlined above, you have a claim under the Consumer Rights Act against the seller (rather than the manufacturer).

What you can claim depends on how much time has passed since you physically took ownership of the goods.

30-day right to reject

Under the Consumer Rights Act, you have an absolute legal right to reject goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, and receive a full refund – as long as you do this within 30 days of taking ownership (when you paid for them in a store and took them away, or when the goods were delivered if you paid online).

If you’re outside the 30-day ‘right to reject’, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital downloads which are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

If the attempt at a repair or replacement is unsuccessful, you can then claim a refund or a price reduction if you wish to keep the product.

The first six months

If you discover the fault within six months of having the product, it will be presumed to have been there since the time you took ownership of it – unless the retailer can prove otherwise.

If you’d prefer to keep the product in question, you can request an appropriate price reduction.

If a fault develops after six months, the burden is on you to prove the product was faulty at the time you took ownership of it. This may require some form of expert report, opinion or evidence of similar problems across the product range.

Apps, e-books & software

The Consumer Rights Act defines digital content as data that is produced and supplied in digital form. This refers to digital downloads, such as apps, e-books, games or software. Just like goods, digital content must be:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • fit for purpose
  • as described by the seller

If it doesn’t conform to these criteria, you have the right to a repair or replacement.

Effectively, the 2015 statute is a very useful piece of legislation to protect your consumer rights relating to purchased items and also in respect of the supply of services.

However, what happens if the item isn’t faulty, but you simply don’t like it?

Most stores, online or otherwise, will give you a period of time to get a refund in these circumstances. Some offer such a high level of customer service that they will provide a refund after a ‘reasonable’ period of time, provided the returned item is new and a receipt is produced. However, they don’t have to legally provide this outside of their specified deadline.

If you’re finding a retailer isn’t being very co-operative, it’s useful to mention that you ‘know your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015’. If they’re being stubborn and you need additional help, engaging a qualified, licenced paralegal can be a cheaper option than a solicitor.

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