How to make sure you have a happy Christmas
Gifts you bought online haven't arrived, your dinner was dire and your hairdo is a disaster. Samantha Downes explains your rights
Saturday 03 December 2011
The average person will spend at least £300 on presents and entertaining this Christmas. Some surveys have put the figure higher, a few lower, but the bottom line is whatever we spend, our expectations are higher around Christmas than at any other time of year.
Of course, by the law of averages, it is also the time when things are most likely to go wrong.
Your gifts don't arrive on time
In an ideal world we would all buy our Christmas presents early. But the reality is this December an estimated £8bn will be spent online, most of that in the two weeks before the 25th. And, as in every year, some of those gifts will not arrive on time.
Therese Wallin, legal expert at find-a-solicitor service Contact Law, says checking delivery dates is a must. "Not only do delivery times vary among online retailers, they can even vary when delivered from the same website," she warns. Standard delivery is usually around five to seven working days, but online retailers can have up to 30 days to deliver goods.
"In some cases retailers may specify pre-Christmas delivery as part of the contract," Wallin says. "If this is the case, and your gifts arrive late, you may be able to make a claim for breach of contract and you can cancel your order and get your money back."
There are other things to bear in mind too. A White Christmas may delay deliveries, so check your retailer's policy. "Each will be different," points out Wallin. "For some, the standard rules may apply, others may have 'unforeseen circumstances' which may then exempt them from a claim for breach of contract."
You've bought a replacement gift
If you've gone and bought another gift in the meantime, you can take advantage of a legal cooling-off period which allows you seven days to decide whether or not you want the original or replacement gift; regardless of the reason you wish to return the item.
This applies from when you receive the item – so if it arrives late, this seven-day period will not be affected. "Some retailers will give you a bit longer. Amazon, gives you 30 days to return goods if you've changed your mind," says Wallin.
However, the cooling-off period does not apply if you bought something customised. It also doesn't apply if you bought fresh food or flowers or if you've taken a DVD or CD out of its packaging. Purchases from online auctions like eBay are not covered either.
And if you've bought from an overseas company, beware – you may not be covered at all.
Your gifts arrive damaged
"The Sale of Goods Act covers damaged goods and it applies to purchases in store and online," Wallin says. "It states goods must be sold as they are described, must be of a satisfactory quality, and must be fit for purpose."
If it's a minor fault some shops insist on repairing them, which is within their rights. If this is the case, they need to repair the goods within a reasonable time period, at no additional cost.
"If this is inconvenient to you, you should be given a replacement item on a like-for-like basis. If you feel the repair is not up to scratch, or there continues to be a fault with the product, you can then insist on a refund."
It's summer and the Xbox you bought at Christmas stops working
The Sale of Goods Act states that you can return gifts within "reasonable time" which, as a rough guide, can be anything up to six months, though it is recommended you do this as soon as possible and the damage must not have been caused by wear and tear or misuse.
The gifts you bought are unwanted
"When you buy a gift for someone, all of the refund and return rights still apply," says Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
Many retailers give gift receipts when you buy items. You can hand them over to the recipient of the gift without revealing what you've spent.
But it also means that you can transfer your rights along with the gift. Guy says if it is a particularly expensive gift it may also be worth letting the shop record the name of the person you're giving the gift to on the receipt.
Many shops will make an effort to be particularly accommodating around Christmas so if you are particularly persuasive you may find that they are willing to at least offer you an exchange or credit for unwanted goods that you've taken back too late, as long as you have the receipt and the goods are still in the condition they were when you purchased them.
"It never hurts to stand your ground with retailers – most are actually pretty reasonable," says Wallin.
The gifts you bought have gone missing
The first thing you should do, if something hasn't arrived at all, is to get proof of postage from the retailer.
If they can't produce anything, whether it's an email or tracking number, then you can ask for your money back.
If they are able to produce proof the item was sent and you have still not received the gifts then you may be able to claim your money back thanks to a clause in the Consumer Credit Act.
If you bought via a debit card the act allows you to claim back for the whole amount. If you bought with a credit card you can claim your cash back, so long as the gift cost £100 or more.
The office Christmas meal was a disaster
If your once-a-year food and drink fest with colleagues resulted in a two-hour wait for lukewarm turkey and cold mince pies, then you should complain.
"If you are unhappy with your meal then talk to the waiter or the manager and explain why. Then things can be rectified on the spot," advises Alex Whitelaw of restaurant chain Pizza Express.
If the meal results in another unwanted Christmas present – food poisoning – then you have a duty to complain says Whitelaw.
"If someone thinks they have food poisoning then they need to tell the restaurant fast. Of course it may be that you could get a refund or compensation. Thankfully food poisoning is rare but it does happen."
Your Christmas party hairdo goes wrong
If you are trying a new hairdresser your best bet is to check that they are registered with the Hairdressing Council, the nearest thing the UK has to a statutory body for the hairdressing profession.
"Anyone can practice as a hairdresser which means the industry is in effect unregulated," warns Sally Styles, registrar at the Hairdressing Council. "Britain is one of very few countries in which anyone, without registration, qualifications or even any form of recognised training, is free to set up and practice as a hairdresser.
"The best advice to anyone seeking hairdressing services is to choose a state registered hairdresser. If your hairdresser is registered with us then you are protected. If not, your only option is to seek redress through the courts.
Styles says if you are having you hair dyed for the first time your colourist should always request a patch test to check you are not allergic to any of the chemicals used.
You can find out whether your hairdresser is registered by checking the Hair Council website.
Citizens advice: consumer rights guide
Keep all receipts
Many shops will let you change your mind when there is no fault, so ask.
If you are buying underwear or clothes for your partner or wife it might be a good idea to sneak a look at size labels in the things she is already wearing.
Remember your rights
"Whatever time of year – be it Christmas or summer – the goods you buy must be of satisfactory quality; match the description (if it says it is an all wool jumper, it should be a jumper made of wool); and be fit for their purpose. So if you were buying computer software and asked whether it would work on your particular computer, it should do so," says Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
Check the delivery date
Bear in mind that at this time of year orders can take longer than normal to arrive.
Be sales savvy
Your rights are just the same if you are buying goods in the sale as at any other time. But if there is a notice or a tag on the product that says it is faulty – that's why it's cheap.
Don't be afraid to complain
Jacqueline Kinnison, 67, runs a networking beauty business and has three grandchildren. She lives in Stansted, Essex.
"Last year I bought a turkey crown from our local Waitrose in Bishop's Stortford.
"I bought it on Christmas Eve just before the shop closed. The manager was walking round offering them for £5, they normally sell at £30 plus but obviously they would be out of date before the store opened again on 27 December.
"We cooked the turkey on Boxing Day but it was so tough we couldn't eat it; although obviously not 'off' we weren't happy with it.
"I took the turkey back to the store on 27 December and complained. Not only did I get my money back – without having to show the receipt (they didn't ask for it) I also got another Turkey, which we ate on New Year's Eve."
Waitrose said: "We ask our customers to let us know if there is an issue so we can resolve it – our policy is to replace it and offer a refund."
Find a solicitor: findlaw.co.uk
Find a hairdresser: haircouncil.org.uk
Your rights: contactlaw.co.uk/what-consumer-rights-exist-when-shopping-online
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
- 1 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 2 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 3 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 4 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 5 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...
Day In a Page
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
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.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
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.
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 first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
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.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
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.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
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.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
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.
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 six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.