Millions of shoppers may have flocked to the winter sales, but today the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation have urged consumers to shop responsibly and be aware of their rights to a refund or exchange.
With internet shopping on the increase and many other forms of buying methods appearing, it can be difficult for shoppers to know exactly what the rules are.
Here is a guide to the rules around sensible shopping:
- Goods must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, last a reasonable time and match any description given. If they do not, the consumer can usually get either a repair, replacement, refund or partial refund.
- The consumer has the right to any claim for six years from purchase, or five years in Scotland.
- Sometimes these rights might not apply. For example, if a consumer just changes their mind they will not have the same rights unless the shop they bought from offers them under its own store policy.
- Consumers have a "reasonable time", often around 4 weeks to return faulty goods and get a full refund.
- After this, may be only entitled to a partial exchange.
- Consumers do not need a receipt to return faulty goods, just proof of purchase.
- Shoppers are not entitled to refund if the fault is normal wear and tear, or if the consumer damages it themselves.
- Consumers are not entitled to a refund if they were aware of a fault prior to purchase.
- A consumer may not be entitled to a full refund if they keep the goods for too long.
- Consumers have the same rights for sale items as they do for full price items.
- Legally only the person who paid for the gift has a right to return faulty goods.
- To avoid hassle, it's best to use gift receipts where available, or get the trader to write ''this is a gift for ---'' on any receipt or invoice.
Dangerous or unsafe goods
- If an item is suspected to be dangerous or unsafe, the individual should stop using it immediately.
- It should be reported to Trading Standards on 08454 04 05 06.
- When buying directly from a private seller, consumers cannot get their money back if the goods are not satisfactory or fit for purpose.
- They do have the right to a refund if the item doesn't match the description.
- Always ask for a receipt, contact details and copies of any relevant adverts or website pages from sellers whenever possible.
Online auction sites
- The general shopper's rights apply when buying from a seller who makes some or all of their income from selling through online auction sites.
- If the seller is just an occasional private seller, the more limited rules of private purchases apply.
Online, mail order and telephone shopping
- Consumers who opt for these buying methods have extra rights in addition to the general rights.
- If they buy a service they can cancel their order up to seven working days after making it, and if they buy goods they can cancel 7 working days after receiving the item.
- Consumers can claim a refund if they do not receive their item within 30 days.
- Consumers can't return certain goods that they have changed their mind about, including opened CDs or DVDs, food, personalised goods, newspapers and magazines.