Consumer Rights: Know your rights before that big shopping spree
Retailers are obliged to issue refunds or replacements if your purchases are not up to scratch – but not if you simply have a change of mind
Saturday 28 December 2013
I 've done it again: bought bargains in the sales only to realise later that I'll never wear them, use them or give them as presents. I have no right to a refund or an exchange because there's nothing wrong with them; I've simply changed my mind. The retailers have no obligation whatsoever to take them back and there was no agreement that they'll exchange them out of the goodness of their hearts. So I'm stuck with my ill-judged spending decisions.
If a retailer offers you something at a reduced price in a "sale", you have the same rights as you do if the goods were full price. You are entitled to a refund if they are faulty, don't do what it says on the tin, or are something other than they were described.
You can expect nothing from the retailer unless it was agreed when you handed over your money that you could have a refund or replacement if you just changed you mind, or a notice displayed in the shop said so. If that's the contract, you can have a refund if you return things unused within a certain time.
Some retailers do give refunds when they have no obligation to. Others allow you to bring things back and exchange them. If you think you might change your mind, buy from a shop that has a good refund or exchange policy.
On the other hand, there are retailers who refuse to give you a refund on goods even though you're entitled to it. They often use the "sale" as an excuse to claim they don't have to refund or exchange sale goods under any circumstances. That's not true. Just because goods are in a sale doesn't mean you don't have your usual rights. If they are faulty, not fit for the purpose they're sold for or not as described, you should stand your ground.
It's one thing knowing your rights; it's another having to argue with a retailer who is equally determined not to give you those rights. If you get nowhere, you can claim in court, but that's a last resort. Before that, talk to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0845 404 0506 or your local authority Trading Standards Department.
If the goods cost more than £100 and you bought them with a credit card, ask the card provider to pay up instead. It is jointly liable and must compensate you if the retailer won't or can't. Sales goods are often sold as "imperfect". If it's pointed out to you that goods have faults and you choose to buy them at the sale price, you can't ask for a refund on the grounds they're less than perfect.
You may be offered credit to help you buy sales goods. If you pay for goods or services on credit and things go wrong, you may be able to claim compensation from the credit company instead of the firm that sold you the goods or services.
To claim the price of any single item, it must be over £100 but not more than £30,000. If the credit company won't accept responsibility, complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You have the right to cancel a credit agreement within 14 days, and you don't have to give a reason. Notify the lender in writing as soon as you know you want to cancel. After 14 days, any rights you may have to cancel will be spelled out in your contract and will depend on the type of credit you agreed.
If you breach of your credit agreement (for example, you don't keep up your payments), the creditor must send you a default notice telling you what action it intends to take.
Remember you aren't automatically entitled to credit. If you want to take out a credit agreement or a store card to pay for goods, there's a lender in the background ready to hand over the money to the retailer.
However, they have the right to check your credit history and decide whether you're likely to repay the loan. If they decide you're too much of a risk, they can refuse you credit. You don't have to be told why but you must be told of any credit-reference agency they used.
Three agencies collect and store information on everyone's financial situation. You can check with them that information on your file is correct: Experian 0844 481 8000, experian.co.uk, Equifax 0844 335 0550, equifax.co.uk, and Callcredit 0870 060 1414, callcredit.co.uk.
Online, mail order and TV shopping channels also have sales, and if you prefer to buy goods that way the distance selling regulations give you extra protection. You're entitled to information about the seller, including an address. Your right to cancel lasts from the moment you place your order until seven working days after you receive your goods. If they are faulty, or you're sent a substitute you don't want, the retailer must pay return postage costs. These rights apply as well as those you have if you buy in a shop. If your goods are faulty or don't match the description given, you have the same rights to a refund or replacement as when buying over the counter.
Some goods you can't return if you simply change your mind, including CDs, DVDs or software if you've broken the seal on the wrapping, perishables like food and flowers, tailor-made or personalised goods, underwear and earrings. So whether you're paying cash or buying on credit, know your rights before you buy. Otherwise like me you'll end up with few bargains and no rights. But the charity shops will be the winners.
Q: I have enough money for a deposit on a flat but I can't afford a big enough mortgage to buy in my area. A friend suggested I look for a shared ownership flat but I'm not sure whether I'd qualify. Is shared ownership a good option for a first-time buyer?
A: Housing Associations offer shared ownership schemes. You buy a share of the home and pay rent on the rest. You can buy a quarter to start with and then buy more shares as you can afford it. The amount of rent goes down the more you buy but, of course, if you need a mortgage to buy your share, then the mortgage repayments will go up the more you buy.
You can buy a shared ownership home if you earn £60,000 a year or less, you're a first-time buyer, you used to own a home or you rent a council or housing association property. If this appeals to you be very careful when working out what you can afford. All shared ownership properties are leasehold. That means you'll be asked to pay a service charge as well as the mortgage and rent.
When you come to sell, your shared ownership homes could have been overpriced when first sold so it can be hard to get your investment back.
Buyers beware of new-build home headaches
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Simon Read: You're guilty until proven innocent when HMRC sends in the tax credit detectives
Money roundup video: Warning for mortgage borrowers and Premium Bonds boost
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool