Flexible friend, plastic protector

If you've paid for a shopping spree with a credit card, it should be easier to get your money back if the goods turn out to be faulty

Whether you've been off to the January sales or booking your summer holiday, your credit card could prove to be a surprisingly good friend at this big spending time of the year.

And not just because cash is in short supply after recent festive excesses. Paying by credit card has advantages even for those with money in the bank. Specifically, cards offer an element of valuable protection should your purchases fall short of what could reasonably be expected from them.

The credit-card company is as liable as the retailer for the quality of purchases costing between pounds 100 and pounds 30,000, under Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act.

If, say, the goods are faulty or turn out to be other than as described, you do not have to rely on the seller to get your money back - you can go to your card company instead.

And this protection kicks in as long as you put just some element of the cost on your card - say a pounds 50 deposit for an item that in total cost more than pounds 100.

Of course, the pounds 100 limit means you will not be covered for every item bought in the sales. But in some cases protection can amount to even more than you actually paid. Alan Wilson, senior law lecturer at the University of East London, says: "Holidays are one area where consumers often do have grounds for seeking redress. And in many cases, you have a right to more than just a straight refund. You can claim for disappointment, distress and loss of enjoyment."

Similarly, with a restaurant meal paid for by credit card, you could make a claim for loss of enjoyment.

Unfortunately, some travel agents charge more if you pay by credit card. But the extra pounds 5 to pounds l0, based on a typical surcharge of 1 per cent, could be viewed as an extra insurance.

Beware, too, of credit-card companies fobbing you off by sending you back to the retailer. Last year the National Consumer Council criticised card companies for this practice - legally they are jointly liable with the retailer.

But whether you are seeking compensation from your card company or a retailer, just what are your rights if you are dissatisfied with a purchase?

Goods have to meet the description given them and be of satisfactory quality. What the law considers satisfactory quality would be affected by the price you pay for the goods and any description applied to them. You have a right to reject faulty goods and demand a full refund rather than get a replacement.

If, instead, you simply don't like something you have no right to a refund, but a retailer may offer this - or a credit note or exchange - out of goodwill.

In addition, with faulty goods you should move quickly to ensure your right to a refund. The law does not lay down precisely how much time you have in which to reject goods, but in a case 10 years ago, involving a Mr Bernstein, three weeks was deemed the limit for a full refund on a purchase as expensive and sophisticated as a car.

Once the refund time limit has passed, compensation is usually limited to the cost of repair. So, if only to establish whether or not goods are satisfactory, it makes sense to use newly purchased goods straight away.

The same buyers' rights apply to shoddy goods you may have bought in the January sales - notwithstanding any signs saying "no refunds" that a retailer may put up.

The only caveat here is that some goods are sold cheaply because they are faulty. You won't be able to claim for faults that have been pointed out, or, if you examined the goods in the shop, faults you should have discovered. It is reasonable to assume that if you examined a kettle, for example, you would discover a big scratch on the casing. But you could not be expected to know the element was faulty unless it had otherwise been pointed out to you.

Of course, in practice, many well-known chain stores give replacements and refunds without a quibble, sometimes when you are not strictly entitled to redress. It's a policy that makes good business sense for many retailers.

But others may not be as consumer friendly. A retailer's willingness or otherwise to give a refund may be influenced by how easy it is for it to get redress from the manufacturer.

Some shops may insist they cannot help you without a receipt. This is nonsense. A receipt or other evidence of purchase such as a cheque or debit-card slip helps to prove your claim, but these items are not essential.

If a retailer is digging in and refusing to help, your ultimate redress might be the courts. The small claims court - run through the county court - is designed to avoid the need for lawyers and can cost as little as pounds 10. "Small claims" can be up to pounds 3,000.

It's also worth noting that some credit-card companies will cover you for goods bought abroad, although a voluntary agreement among all of them to meet claims from foreign purchases ended recently. Barclaycard, for one, has agreed to continue to meet claims for credit- card spends of more than pounds 100.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Suggested Topics
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Don't count your retirement money yet: employers will stop receiving a pension rebate next year and their staff may lose out

Defined-benefit pension schemes: Rebate change in 2016 may leave you out of pocket

Employees in defined-benefit schemes are held up as the lucky ones, but the state pension scheme will be overhauled in April 2016
Labour will raise the national minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 (EPA)

Barclays new Blue Rewards hands cash to customers. What’s the catch?

Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month

New research reveals that despite the recovering economy, four out of five low-income households have seen no sign of their financial situation improving

Hard-up families could be eligible for financial help

A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state

When is the best time to buy foreign currency?

Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling

General Election 2015: Vote for the party that will boost your finances

Experts warn that the general election is unlikely to lead to stable markets. Simon Read talks to two investment managers who are advising caution

Make the most of your money in 2015-16: The end of the tax year is the beginning of the next...

The new tax year brings with it a raft of new rules and regulations

General Election 2015: Will pension reform be a major factor?

Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension

General election 2015: David Cameron's promise brings uncertainty to investors

Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson

Have you won one of the £1m Premium Bonds' jackpots?

Video: The Independent's Personal Finance Editor runs you through the key facts about Premium Bonds

Give me the money: but not all providers are ready for transfers to Junior Isas

Parents will be able to switch dormant child trust funds to more competitive Junior Isa

Millions of dormant junior savings accounts were yesterday given the go-ahead to swap to better deals as the Government agreed to allow switching. Samantha Downes reports
Hard labour: a woman bears the load in a factory. But equal treatment is causing pension problems

Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme

Workers were promised that the state would pay inflation increases on parts of their pensions. But now the DWP disagrees
The Budget, says one critic, should have done more to encourage construction of affordable homes

Help for buyers but where are the homes?

A vote-winning Budget promised less tax, greater savings flexibility, and government handouts for first-time housebuyers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own