People in the UK collectively spend billions of pounds at Christmas each year.

The average person spends about £1,000 more at Christmas than at any other time of the year. A big chunk of that goes on gifts for friends and family.

But what happens if those gifts need to go back to the shop? What if you're unhappy with the service you have received?

Whenever you buy something, you're protected by a set of rights.

Consumer Rights Act

Any product or service you buy must meet certain standards:

  1. It should not be faulty or damaged.
  2. You should be able to use it for the reason you bought it.
  3. It must match the description given when you bought it.

If the product or service doesn't meet these standards, you can do something about it. But there are time limits:

  1. Within 30 days: You can return an item for a full refund or replacement.
  2. After 30 days: You can't get a full refund - but you can ask for the product to be repaired or replaced. The place you bought it from needs to prove the item wasn't faulty when you bought it. If they can't, you can get it repaired or replaced. If that doesn't work, you can get a refund or a reduction in price. There are different rules for vehicles.
  3. After six months: You need to prove the item was faulty when you bought it.

If you need to send items back for a replacement, repair or refund, the place you bought it from should pay for standard delivery costs.

Services must be carried out with care and skill. If they aren't, you can ask for them to be done again. This even includes things like having your hair cut or having your car washed. Make sure costs and timescales are agreed beforehand.

Buying something without seeing it first

About £1 in every £6 we spend is now spent online. This is likely to have risen in 2020 because of Covid-19.

If you buy something without seeing it first, you are covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations as well as the Consumer Rights Act:

  1. You can cancel your purchase within 14 days and get a full refund.
  2. Whatever you have bought must be delivered within 30 days unless you agreed another timeframe with the seller.
  3. You can cancel and get a full refund if the retailer agreed to get items to you by Christmas and didn't.

Buying from a private seller

If you buy something second-hand from an individual rather than a business, your rights are different. You are only entitled to a refund, replacement or repair if whatever you bought wasn't accurately described when you bought it.

Credit or debit card?

Buying products or services on a credit card can give you added protection.

Making claims

If you are unhappy with a product or service, you should first speak to the business or person you bought it from.

If you cannot resolve your differences, you could try alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before you think about making a claim and involving the courts.

Common forms of ADR are:

  1. mediation - an independent third party helps both parties to agree a mutually acceptable outcome
  2. arbitration - an independent third party considers the facts and makes a binding decision.

If ADR doesn't work, you could go to the small claims court.

Need help?

Speak to a legal adviser or contact Citizens Advice for more information.

Good to know

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The information here is independent and just the facts. We're not trying to sell you anything.

We just tell you about things that are good to know to help you make better choices about legal issues and lawyers.

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