Citizens Advice Column - December 23/January 24
National Consumer Week Part II: Last Minute Christmas Shopping, Returns And Refunds
National Consumer Week Part I was in October and was designed to help shoppers navigate their way through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. National Consumer Week Part II is scheduled for January 2024 and is focused on understanding refund and return rights. Below are also some tips for last minute Christmas shoppers.
Last minute Christmas shopping is a feature of the modern Christmas. It’s mid-December and no-one has given you their Christmas list, you can’t find the thing he or she really wants, and your budget is being stretched to breaking point. You are scouring the internet, or the local shops, for a good deal. You feel under pressure and are ripe for making rushed decisions.
Fundamental shopping rules still apply, even in December:
- Know who you are buying from - the guy down the pub really isn’t to be relied on, neither is the website you’ve never heard of before.
- Be careful how you pay for what you buy. Credit cards, and accredited online payments systems like PayPal, will give you protection, paying by cash will not do.
- Don’t borrow to pay for Christmas, especially from illegal lenders.
- If buying peer-to-peer via an online marketplace, such as Ebay, don’t make payments until you have received the goods….and finally,
- …if the offer is too good to be true, or you are being put under pressure to buy, leave it alone; it could be counterfeit goods, stolen goods, or some other criminal effort to separate you from your money.
After Christmas, and that one solitary day of rest and relaxation (maybe?), it's time to think about New Year Sales and, just as important, returns and refunds. Below are some simple principles to live by to make sure you are not stuck with presents that you don’t want or that don’t work:
- Check retailers’ refunds and returns policies before you buy. Beyond your statutory rights, retailers’ rules may differ with well-established firms offering more generous terms.
- Always keep paper receipts where possible but remember proof of purchase can also be found in bank statements, in emails, in credit card statements, and elsewhere.
- Remember, different rights apply to different methods of purchase and depend on who you are buying from. Whether you buy goods in-person in a shop, remotely online, or peer-to-peer makes a big difference to what your refund and return rights are.
- Finally, always be aware that a right to a refund or return is not always automatic in all circumstances. You can’t assume, just because you feel you are in the right, that the law will back you up. Better to know your rights beforehand than get an unwelcome shock when it's too late to do anything about it.
For more details on obtaining refunds for goods you don't want, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/changed-your-mind/changing-your-mind-about-something-youve-bought/.
For more information on returning faulty goods, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/somethings-gone-wrong-with-a-purchase/return-faulty-goods/.
To talk to someone about your consumer issue contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133, Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.
An alternative source of credible independent advice can be found from Which? at www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/who-pays-to-return-late-unwanted-goods-avqUy8c5nojV.
Or you can try www.gov.uk/accepting-returns-and-giving-refunds for the retailer’s perspective.
Don’t let not understanding your rights about refunds and returns ruin your New Year. Be prepared.
Oh..and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all at Citizens Advice across Warwickshire!
By Ed Hodson
Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire