Personal Finance: No legal right to change your mind
A good return: it is business rather than the law that prompts stores such as John Lewis to offer quibble-free exchanges or refunds DILLON BRYDEN
Sunday 13 December 1998
Marks & Spencer operates one of the best-known returns policies. It will give customers refunds, no questions asked, as long as the goods are in reasonable condition. Customers with receipts can have their money back in cash or refunded to their plastic cards; customers without a receipt will receive credit vouchers. Other leading stores, including Gap, John Lewis and Ikea, have similar policies.
Unfortunately, some companies' generous returns policies have given consumers a false sense of security. Companies that offer "no quibble" returns do so because it is good for their business, not because the law requires them to. Legal protection only applies to consumers who buy faulty goods, not goods they don't like.
"The devil in this is companies that let you take goods back if you change your mind," explains Harriet Hall, legal officer at the National Consumer Council. "You can't do that unless the retailer tells you that you can. They haven't broken their contract.
"Goods have to be safe, fit for purpose and durable, bearing in mind the price you paid for them," she says. "That is your legal guarantee."
The "fit for purpose" rule also includes any particular purpose the shopkeeper mentions either voluntarily, or because the shopper asks. A shopper who takes a purchase home and finds it does not work or is not "fit for purpose" has a right to a refund.
As long as he or she complains to the seller promptly, there is no obligation to accept anything other than cash, even if the shop offers a repair, replacement or credit note. This applies even if the goods were in a sale, but not if they are described as imperfect in some way, such as shop soiled.
These basic rights have a time limit. They apply until the buyer "accepts" the goods; this happens automatically after a "reasonable" period of time. There is no fixed legal definition of how long this is, as it depends on the product, but if there is a problem, it is worth telling the shop immediately.
If goods are unsafe and cause an injury, or damage costing more than pounds 275, buyers have rights against the manufacturer. Otherwise, the complaint is always with the shop, whatever the shopkeeper says.
Once a consumer has accepted the goods, he or she is only entitled to compensation, not a refund, if the product fails. This normally means a repair or the cost of a repair. Usually, it is less trouble to claim under the manufacturer's warranty. This might also be more generous, offering a full free replacement. Outside the warranty, consumers still have statutory rights.
A court might decide that a washing machine that failed after 54 weeks in normal use was not durable enough to be of satisfactory quality - but few consumers would relish the inconvenience and expense of legal action to prove it.
Warranties and return policies often state: "This does not affect your statutory rights." This means what it says. Whatever the benefits of the warranty, consumers still have rights under law (with the shop, not the manufacturer).
If you are unsure whether something is suitable, ask about the refund policy before you buy. If you buy something that is unsuitable or if it fails, tell the shop quickly: delaying reduces your rights.
The same rights apply to sale goods - but shops are free to exclude sale items from extra benefits such as no-quibble refunds. There is no need for a receipt in order to return goods, but proof of purchase, such as a credit card slip, will speed up matters.
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 3 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 4 Motorists taunt suicidal woman on bridge and tell her to 'get on with it'
- 5 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...