Whether it’s a jumper that doesn’t fit, a book you already have or a gadget you’re never going to use, there will always be gifts that you would like to return or exchange. On any other year this wouldn’t really be an issue but with non-essential stores closed in the third lockdown and difficulty contacting retailers, can you return unwanted gifts and if so how?
The first thing to remember is that you are not entitled to a refund unless the item is faulty. However many stores do have fair returns policies and will readily offer exchanges. In addition, a number of retailers extend their returns policies for purchases at Christmas. However this isn’t an extension of your consumer rights, it’s just a goodwill gesture on their part, as they are not legally obliged to do so.
Currys and Debenhams have extended their returns window until mid January and Argos, John Lewis and New Look to late January. Purchases from Argos can also be collected free of charge with the original delivery cost refunded. Despite its current difficulties, Arcadia Group customers can still return items as usual. Topshop’s return deadline for example being the 30th January. Unfortunately this may not be not long enough in a third lockdown.
Back in March, John Lewis agreed to honour returns for store purchases for up to 35 days after stores reopened and Primark, 28 days. Many other retailers offered similar policies covering 30, 45 or even 60 days. John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Primark also extended gift card expiry dates. Again other retailers did the same. It’s worth checking with your retailer via their website or customer service team to see if returns windows for unwanted gifts have been extended during the third lockdown because of stores being closed due to Coronavirus.
When are you entitled to a refund?
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods should be as described, of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time. If not then you are entitled to a refund, replacement or repair as appropriate. Purchases need to be returned within 30 days for a refund. For purchases over 30 days, you still have 6 months to return unwanted gifts but retailers can offer a repair or replacement before issuing a refund if appropriate.
Online purchases are covered by the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013. Your right to cancel an order starts from the moment you place the order and ends 14 days from the day you receive it. A refund should be processed within 14 days of either notification of the return if the item is to be collected or receipt/proof of postage of the return.
What about gift cards?
The Terms and Conditions of gift cards should be clearly stated on purchase and companies can makes changes accordingly. Arcadia recently limited their gift cards to 50% of purchases in December effectively halving their value. It’s always wise to use gift cards as quickly as possible but if you are unable to use them due to lockdown then you may be able to extend the expiry date by contacting the retailer.
Unfortunately gift cards do come little protection and if the company goes into administration, you will just join a long list of creditors- at the bottom. It will be up to the administrators as to whether they will still honour the cards. Be aware also that some gift cards have hidden fees for inactivity. You can find our more about the pitfalls of gift cards in this post by fellow Consumer Expert Scott Dixon.