Ah, Christmas: it’s the most wonderful time of the year… isn’t it?
I mean, when else is it socially acceptable to scoff advent calendar chocolate for breakfast?
But for many of us, it’s also the most expensive time of the year, with estimates suggesting the average British adult will fork out £548 on gifts this Christmas.
Cost isn’t the only worry: what if your brilliant present idea is the same as your sister’s and your niece ends up with two of the same thing?
Or, worse still, neither of you can get your hands on the toy she’s been coveting due to the much-touted shortages we’re all being warned about?
Then there’s the dread of giving (or receiving) a gift that just isn’t the recipient’s cup of tea. Is it OK to return unwanted presents or OK swap them for something else? P
referably without telling your in-laws that the vanilla-scented potpourri they get you every year just isn’t your bag.
You might assume that, provided you’re armed with a receipt, you can return an item to a shop for a full refund if you do so inside a reasonable timeframe.
Believe it or not, though, high street shops aren’t obliged to accept returns unless an item is faulty, even if most stores do offer generous returns policies around Christmas.
If you want to return a gift, you’ll usually need proof of purchase to get a replacement or refund. In an ideal world, whoever has given you the ill-fated present will have had the foresight to tuck a gift receipt in with it.
If they haven’t, depending on how strict the store is, you may need to ask for the receipt. Whether you choose to do so, however, may depend on how many fortifying Christmas sherries you’ve knocked back.
If you do decide to have That Conversation, ask when the product was delivered, if it was bought online. By law, you have 14 days from the date of receipt to cancel most orders, and another 14 in which to return it, though some retailers’ policies are more generous than that.
Of course, sometimes even the best gifts go wrong. Fortunately, consumer law has got your back here, and you should be able to get a refund, repair or replacement if the product is faulty.
The Consumer Rights Act means any products you buy must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If it doesn’t meet any one of those criteria then the retailer that sold it to you is in breach of the act. This means that your statutory consumer rights are against the retailer, not the manufacturer.
Also, you only have 30 days from taking ownership of a product to claim a refund if it is faulty. After this time you have to give the retailer an opportunity to repair or replace it before you can claim a refund.
Deliveries can cause a headache, too. Which? research last year found that 69% of people who ordered products online had a delivery problem over the festive period.
If your parcel is late or goes missing it is the retailer, not the courier, who is responsible for putting it right.
But be aware that if you give permission for your delivery to be left in a specified safe place or received by a nominated neighbour and something goes wrong, you will be considered to have received the delivery.
So think very carefully about those options when you’re making a purchase.
Ele Clark is senior editor of money at Which? For more free money-saving tips and consumer rights advice, visit Which?
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