By Claire West

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) wants shoppers to remember their consumer rights when buying Christmas presents this year.

BIS conducted research as part of the ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign with Consumer Focus, the OFT and Consumer Direct. The research showed that many are still uncertain of their entitlements, and three-quarters of UK consumers don’t know that they have an extra right when buying online — shoppers have an extra 7-day cooling off period for most purchases.

It is important that consumers should know their rights in the run-up to the festive season — it is predicted £6.4 billion will be spent online alone over Christmas, up from £5.5 billion in December 2009. However, recent research from Which? has shown that returns and refunds policies are not widely known or considered when making a purchase.

Customers should be able to buy goods that:

FIT THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN - Goods have to conform to the descriptions given to them

BE OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY - You have the right for the goods you buy to be safe, work properly and be free from defects

BE SUITABLE FOR A PURPOSE - Anything that is sold to you must be capable of doing what it’s meant for.

Consumer Minister Edward Davey said:

“There has been a huge revolution in how people buy goods and we are now Europe’s biggest online shoppers, so it’s important we all know what our rights are, both on and offline. What I want are confident consumers who can stand up for their rights and get a good deal. This is especially important when times are tight and everyone wants to make sure they have value for money.”

The ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign is being supported by B&Q, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Trading Standards offices distributing nearly 400,000 leaflets, with ASDA giving out nearly 20,000 Christmas posters with their deliveries.

Michele Shambrook, Operations Manager for the OFT-managed advice service Consumer Direct, said: “As Christmas approaches, people are looking for value for money - a savvy shopper that has done their homework before hitting the shops will not only be able to pick up the best bargains but will also be able to resolve any problems with their purchase quickly.

“If things do go wrong, the Consumer Direct website can help you find out what your rights are and gives you advice on what steps you can take to secure a replacement, refund or get the item fixed.”


1. Online is fine - if you buy goods on the internet, you have the same rights as if you were shopping on the high street. In addition, you have the right to a seven day ‘cooling off’ period from the date you receive the goods, with the right to a full refund regardless of the reason for return. Remember though that this doesn’t apply in some situations, for example if the goods were personalised for you, were perishable, or are not in the same condition as when they were delivered.

2. Returning it to the retailer - when you buy goods, your contract is with the retailer not the manufacturer and you should always go back to the retailer in the first instance to request an exchange or refund. If you have a manufacturer’s warranty you can contact them as well as the retailer. And don’t delay — act as soon as you discover the fault.

3. No receipt required - you do not need a receipt to obtain a refund for faulty goods. However, you may be required to show proof of purchase with a credit card slip or bank or credit card statement.

4. Check at the checkout — although you do not have the legal right to take back goods bought on the high street just because you’ve changed your mind, many stores do offer a ‘no questions asked’ refund or exchange policy. Check the store policy when you buy.

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