Know your shoppers rights before you hit the winter sales
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27 December 2012
for Business, Innovation and Skills
As Boxing Day sales begin and January sales loom, Consumer
Affairs Minister Jo Swinson is urging consumers to shop
be aware of their rights to a refund or exchange.
Recent figures show that more shoppers are choosing to buy
their festive treats online, but with internet shopping and many other
methods of buying, it can be difficult for consumers to know exactly
what the rules are.
Jo Swinson said:
"The festive period is the one time we happily push away scrooge-like
thoughts and shop for gifts for our loved ones or to take advantage of
the wide range of sales. We are increasingly being spoilt for choice
with a wide range of goods, services and shops to choose from, but the
variety of choice can mean that consumers forget to take note of the
different shoppers' rights that apply.
"I would urge consumers to take note of when they are entitled to a
refund or exchange, and to bear in mind any restrictions on certain
purchases. When shoppers do buy something, and later change their mind
or have a problem with the purchase, I want them to be aware of their
rights and obligations to make sure they can get their money back.
“The current laws that apply to buying goods and services need to be
clearer, as do the rules on shopping online or buying digital content.
The proposed Consumer Bill of Rights aims to clarify and modernise the
law, ensuring consumers are confident about their rights across all
When a consumer buys goods, they must be of satisfactory quality, fit
for purpose, last a reasonable time and match any description given. If
they don’t the consumer can usually get either a repair, replacement,
refund or partial refund. The consumer has the right to any claim for 6
years from purchase, or 5 years in Scotland.
It is important to be aware that sometimes these rights won't apply.
For example if a consumer just changes their mind they will not have
the same rights unless the shop they bought from offers them under its
own store policy.
Consumers have a “reasonable time”, often around 4 weeks (although it
may be less, depending on the goods in question), to return faulty
goods and get a full refund. After this, they may only be entitled to
an exchange or partial refund.
If goods are faulty, consumers don't need to have a receipt to return
the item, just proof of purchase. However they may not be entitled to a
refund if the fault is due to normal wear and tear, or if the consumer
damages the item themselves. This will also be the case where the
consumer was aware of the fault before they bought the item. If a
consumer keeps the goods for too long before telling the shop or trying
to fix the problem themselves, they might not be entitled to get all of
their money back.
Consumers have the same rights for sale items as they do for full price
Although most shops offer gift receipts, legally only the person who
paid has a right to return faulty goods. To avoid any hassle it's best
to use gift receipts where available, or get the trader to write ''this
is a gift for ---'' on any receipt or invoice.
Dangerous or unsafe goods
If an item is suspected to be dangerous or unsafe, the individual
should stop using it immediately. Dangerous or unsafe goods should be
reported to Trading Standards on 08454 04 05 06.
When a shopper buys directly from a private seller, they cannot get
their money back if the goods are not satisfactory or fit for purpose.
They do however have the right to get their money back if the item
doesn't match the description, e.g. if the seller says the item works
and it doesn't. Consumers should always ask for a receipt and contact
details from sellers where they can, and keep copies of any relevant
adverts or website pages.
Online auction sites
The general shopper's rights apply when buying from a seller who makes
some or all of their income from selling through online auction sites.
If the seller is just an occasional private seller, the more limited
rules of private purchases apply.
Online, mail order and telephone shopping
Consumers who opt for these buying methods have extra rights in
addition to the general rights. If they buy a service they can cancel
their order up to 7 working days after making it, and if they buy goods
they can cancel 7 working days after receiving the item. Consumers can
claim a refund if they don't receive their item within 30 days.
However, consumers can't return certain goods that they have changed
their mind about, including opened CDs or DVDs, food, personalised
goods, newspapers and magazines.
When buying online consumers should be able to see certain information
about the seller, the goods, and the seller’s terms and conditions on
the seller's website. To see exactly what information required visit
This year, BIS consulted on proposals for a new Consumer Bill of
Rights, which will set out a clear code of shopping rights with
workable remedies when things go wrong. It will empower consumers,
making it easier for them to understand their rights.
The proposed changes will:
- Clarify the nature of consumers’ rights and remedies in relation to
the supply of goods, which is currently an area where the law is
- Bring the services regime more in line with the regime for goods, by
strengthening consumer rights and remedies in relation to faulty
- Modernise the law on digital content to protect consumers, by
establishing a clear digital content regime with its own tailored set
of rights and associated remedies
- There will also be one clear set of rules governing public
investigations of breaches of consumer law.
The Consumer Bill of Rights consultation closed in October, and the
government will respond in the spring.
- For more information on shoppers rights visit the Citizens
Advice Bureau webpage
- For advice on money or debt contact the Money Advice
- More information on the Consumer Bill of Rights can be found at Gov.uk
1. Further information on the Consumer Bill of Rights can be found at http://discuss.bis.gov.uk/consumer-bill-of-rights/
2. The government's economic policy objective is to achieve 'strong,
sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the
country and between industries'. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan
for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:
* To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
* To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a
* To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced
* To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in
Work is under way across government to achieve these ambitions,
including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth
Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this
work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more
clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the
economy to travel.
About the Author
© Crown Copyright. Material taken from the BIS Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Reproduced under the terms and conditions of the Click-Use Licence.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-01-01 10:23:16 in Business Articles