Christmas shopping rights – your questions answered

Font size


If you’re buying presents (or treats for yourself!) make sure you know your Christmas shopping rights. What are your rights if you’re buying from eBay, you buy a gift card or you buy something that’s faulty?

Christmas shopping rights – your questions answered

The run-up to Christmas can be a time when there are more problems with shopping. Why? Well, shops (whether online or in the high street) are busier. You may be a bit stressed and there’s a chance that you buy something and either you change your mind or the person you give the gift to wants to return it. Here are some questions that you’ve asked me about Christmas shopping rights.

Q. I’ve bought something from a business on eBay through ‘buy it now’ and it’s faulty. Can I get my money back?

A. When you buy from a business on eBay, you’re covered by the Consumer Rights Act — if you use ‘buy it now’ or if you bid for it. Your contract is with the business and not eBay or the manufacturer of the item.

  • You don’t have the automatic right to a refund unless you ‘reject the goods’ because you think they’re faulty when you buy them. Since a new consumer rights law came into effect on October 1st 2015, you have up to 30 days to reject the goods and get a full refund.
  • If the goods develop a fault after you’ve ‘accepted’ them and then go wrong, you should be offered a replacement or a repair and, if the retailer can’t fix the problem or offer a replacement, you can ask for a refund. If the shop repairs the item and it’s still faulty, you can then ask for a replacement or refund.

SAVVY TIP: A business can’t just say you only have seven or 14 days in which to return goods, and after that you have to deal with the manufacturer. This is against the law. Your contract is with the business selling the goods, not the manufacturer.

The Consumer Rights Act gives you useful protection. It says:

  • Goods you buy should be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.
  • You have up to six years to make a claim (five in Scotland) if there’s a problem. It doesn’t mean goods are ‘guaranteed’ for six years as not all items can be expected to last for six (or five in Scotland) years.

SAVVY TIP: If the item develops a fault within the first six months, it’s up to the retailer to show that the fault wasn’t there when you bought it, not for you to show it was. There’s more information about your consumer rights in my article called Faulty goods – there are new consumer rights from October 1st 2015.

Q. I’ve bought something from a private seller on eBay. Is this covered by the Consumer Rights Act?

A. No, I’m afraid it’s not – not in the same way. In this case, goods only have to be ‘as described’.

A private seller (ie an individual) isn’t covered by the same rules as traders. That means if someone calls an item ‘new’ and it obviously isn’t new, you could ask for a refund. Similarly, if they said an item was a particular size and it wasn’t — you could ask for a refund.

SAVVY TIP: Purchases from eBay are covered by its own buyer’s protection programme if you buy via Paypal and you submit your complaint within 45 days of paying for the goods. There are some other terms and conditions relating to when you paid for the items etc. Read the website for full details.

Q. I’ve bought a dress online and it doesn’t fit. The website says I have to send it back within 14 days. Do I?

A. No. You have 14 days to cancel the sale, but you don’t have to return the item in that time. If you buy something online or by mail order, you get extra protection under the Consumer Rights Act. The additional protection is there because you don’t have the chance to look at/examine/try on the goods when you buy online.

The rules say that you can cancel the contract and get your money back any time up to 14 days from the day after the goods arrive.

SAVVY TIP: There are some exceptions, such as if you’ve ordered perishable goods, fresh flowers, something that was custom made or CDs or DVDs.

In order to cancel the sale, you normally have to write to or email the company you bought them from and tell them.

  • If the company states in its terms and conditions that it would prefer you to telephone and cancel the sale, that’s fine, but it’s probably a good idea to send an email or letter to confirm this.
  • The law is very clear that the 14 day deadline is not the deadline by which you must have returned the goods, it’s the deadline by which you must have told the company that you want to cancel the sale.

SAVVY TIP: You have a further 14 days in which to return the items (so up to 28 days in all).

These regulations apply to all kinds of mail order and online purchases, including things like discount vouchers (such as those sold by Groupon etc). You can read more in my guide to your rights in If you’re shopping online, over the phone or by mail order, what are your rights?.

SAVVY TIP: You can cancel your contract if you buy something from a site like eBay but only if you do so via ‘buy it now’. If you buy something through an auction, you’re not covered by the Consumer Rights Act.

Q. I’ve seen a fridge that’s being sold new for £75 less than I can buy it elsewhere. The company want me to pay by bank transfer. Should I?

A. If you don’t know the company I wouldn’t recommend it. If you pay by transfer, either online or by phone, direct from your account to theirs, it’s similar to paying by cash. You can’t get the money back if the fridge doesn’t arrive or isn’t what you expected. There’s more on this in my article Paying by online or phone payment – are you protected if there’s a problem?, in the ripoffs and scams section.

Pay by credit card if you can (if the fridge costs over £100 you’ll get protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act). Or pay by debit card and you’ll be covered by ‘chargeback’ which — although it’s not enshrined in law — means that the card company may be able to reverse the transaction. There’s more in my article called Credit card protection – how you’re protected if you pay by credit card.

Q. I want to buy an iPad for my daughter. If there’s a problem with it, would she be able to take it back to the shop or would I have to?

A. Generally it’s the person who bought the item who has the contract with the shop. So if you bought the iPad, you’d be the one who would have to take it back if it developed a fault.

However, if you get a gift receipt at the time, it means the person you give the gift to can take it back if there’s a fault etc.

Q. I’m buying something as a present but don’t know if the person I’m buying for will like it. Is there anything I can do?

A. You have no right in law to take something back to a shop just because you don’t like it. But many shops let you return or exchange goods if they are unsuitable (and they don’t have to be faulty).

Your best bet is to ask for a gift receipt and check the shop’s returns policy over Christmas. Many shops, including the big high street stores, have an extended returns policy. It normally means if you buy something during November or December you can take it back until the end of January (the exact dates may vary).

Q. I normally buy gift vouchers or gift cards, but after several shops went bust I don’t know whether or not I should do this. What are my rights?

A. Basically, you get very few rights when you buy a gift card. Some cards have quite a short lifespan (two years is not unusual), others last for longer.

If the retailer the gift card can be used in goes bust, you may not be able to use it after the administrators have been called in. Basically, it’s up to the administrators to decide whether or not they’ll accept gift cards and whether they will attach any other terms and conditions to it (such as only for certain items etc).

SAVVY TIP: There’s more in my article about Your rights if you buy a gift card – expiry dates and what happens if the shop goes bust elsewhere in this section.

Q. I’ve bought a coffee maker in the sale and the shop had a sign saying ‘no refunds on sale items’. Can they do this?

A. In a word, no. If you found that the coffee maker was faulty when you got it home, you could ask for a refund. Items you buy in the sale are covered by the Sale of Goods Act in the same way as items sold at full price – so the goods you buy should be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality.

The only time you wouldn’t be covered would be if you bought something that was described as faulty and where the fault had been pointed out to you at the time you bought it.

Related articles:

Your rights if you’re shopping for clothes in the sales – what to do if there’s a problem

How to steer clear of fraud in the run-up to Christmas

What are your rights if you order something and it doesn’t turn up?

SavvyWoman email newsletters: If you found this information useful why not sign up now to receive free fortnightly email newsletters with money saving tips and help? You can sign up at the top of any page on the website and your details won’t be passed to any other company for marketing purposes.

Photo credit: Morguefile/gleangenie