Your consumer rights to a return

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News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

29th March 2016 at 1:00pm

How confident are you when it comes to understanding what your consumer rights are, especially when it comes to a refund?

A good Apple

Let’s begin with a tale of some marital woe and how Apple proved to be good to the core, even when they were within their rights not to be.

From Apple’s blog comes a story of how, after the iPad 2 was released in 2011, one man in the US bought one but had to send it back when his wife blew a gasket.

It arrived back at Apple with a very simple note saying: “Wife said No.”

It tickled two of their Vice Presidents so much, they gave him a full refund and also sent him a free iPad 2 with their own note: “Apple said Yes.”

Unfortunately, not all of us will be quite as lucky as this gentleman should we find ourselves back at the tills, however,  having a good understanding of where we stand makes for a strong negotiating platform, forewarned is forearmed.

The game changer

Back in October 2015 consumer law changed with the introduction of the new Consumers Rights Act. Billed as the biggest shake-up in a generation, its aim was to simplify, strengthen and modernise the law, giving people clearer shopping rights.

As it’s quite a sizeable piece of legislation covering a plethora of eventualities, we thought it would be handy to tackle one area that’s perhaps close to all our hearts – the good old refund.

What are the new rules?

Under the new guidelines, goods should satisfy three criteria:

  • Satisfactory quality: however be careful with this as goods that are listed ‘bargain bucket’ could be sold at a different standard to luxury goods
  • Fit for purpose: if you asked for a product to match a specific purpose then it should be able to do the job
  • As described: goods supplied must match any description given at point of sale.

When am I entitled to a refund?

If the goods are faulty, and you bought them from a UK-based retailer, you’re entitled to ask for them to be repaired – or to get a full refund. The Act says you can now get that refund up to 30 days from purchase and your money must be returned to you within 14 days.

Even if you bought the product more than 30 days ago, you are still entitled to a repair or a replacement. The retailer has one chance to make the repair. If you are still unhappy, you have a right to a refund.

It’s also worth noting that if your goods are faulty and you don’t have the receipt, you still have the right to a repair, refund or replacement.

What about non-faulty goods?

You can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy. Even though they don’t have to do it by law, lots of shops will say you can return items within 14 or sometimes even 30 days, as long they’re not used.

Though most companies are happy to offer a refund, it’s important to check an individual store’s terms and conditions before you purchase as they’re likely to vary, especially if you’re in any doubt as to whether you’ll keep the item.

I’ve bought something online, what are my rights now?

Actually, buying online gives you more rights than shopping on the high street.

The usual trading standards apply but you also automatically get a 14-day ‘cooling-off period’ when you buy something you haven’t seen in person – unless it’s bespoke or made to measure.

The cooling-off period starts from when you receive the goods, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.

But be careful, you won’t get a cooling-off period when you buy:

  • something that deteriorates quickly – like flowers or food
  • an item that was personalised or custom-made for you
  • anything from a private individual rather than a business
  • a CD, DVD or software, if you break the seal on the wrapping

You need to tell the seller you don’t want the item within 14 days of receiving it. Once you’ve told the seller, you’ve got another 14 days to actually send the item back.

If you paid for standard delivery when you bought something, the seller has to refund this if you return it. If you chose a more expensive delivery option, you’ll forfeit the difference.

What about digital downloads?

There are also new rights for refunds covering digital downloads, such as software, games and films, which either do not work or might even damage a device.

As with all products, the goods you’ve purchased must be as described and fit for purpose, even if the software is supplied free. If the digital content fails, or is not as described, the new rights will be enforceable against the retailer.

The retailer will have to compensate you if any device, or other digital content, is damaged as a result of the digital download. It would also be liable to pay compensation for removing a virus.

What if a retailer doesn’t comply?

You can take them to a small claims court, but that is an expensive process. Since July 2015, an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been available to settle disputes between consumers and retailers quickly and more cheaply and help avoid the courts.

Businesses have an obligation to ensure all staff understand the new Act, but certified ADR providers are available to help when a dispute cannot be settled between the business and the consumer. A full list of ADR providers can be found on the trading standards website.

For more information

Our pointers will hopefully give you some helpful information on your rights, however, if you’re after a more detailed depiction, we’d recommend checking out the citizens advice site. They have produced some excellent summaries, along with Q&A’s and practical examples. It’s a great one-stop shop on where you now stand.

Join the conversation and follow us on twitter @StandardLifeUK and Facebook.

The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice.