Exchanges and returns

  • Judith Tizard
Consumer Affairs

"When it comes to Christmas we can all remember times when we’ve been given something we didn't like or already have" said Consumer Affairs Minister, Judith Tizard.

"The ‘cool’ T-shirt that isn’t really that cool and is a few sizes too small. The CD that Dad thought you’d love but didn’t come anywhere close to your taste in music. Or the video or DVD that your sister got you and it turns out you’ve already seen it ten times and can’t watch it ever again. What can you do?"

"Contrary to popular belief, retailers are not obliged by law to refund or exchange gifts if they're the wrong size or colour, or not liked. But many choose to do so. You can take the gift back and ask. If they're unable to give you a refund, ask if they'll exchange the gift, or give you a credit note for the store."

However, retailers may be obliged to refund or replace or repair gifts if they are faulty or damaged. When you buy something, the law says it must be of acceptable quality. That means it must be fit for its normal purpose, acceptable in finish and appearance, free from any kind of fault, safe, and last a reasonable time for that type of good.

Here are some tips if consumers find themselves in a situation where they want or need to exchange or return a gift:

  • Check whether the sender thoughtfully included an exchange card. Exchange cards should allow you to swap the goods for something of equal or more value from that store. Make sure you use them promptly as exchange cards may only be valid for a short time after Christmas.
  • Didn't get an exchange card? If you know where the gift came from, and it is in its original wrapping, take it back to the store to ask whether they will agree to exchange it. Otherwise, you may have to ask the person who gave you the gift if they could exchange it for you, or have the receipt. If a gift turns out to be faulty, the Consumer Guarantees Act gives the receiver of the goods rights to have the goods repaired, or in serious situations may give rights to a refund.
  • A manufacturer's warranty should apply to you too, even if you didn't buy the goods yourself.
  • Remember to keep your receipts, just in case someone you bought a gift for wants to return or exchange it.

"I encourage both customers and retailers to think about what's reasonable and fair. If you aren’t sure about your rights and responsibilities as a retailer or a customer, contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau for advice," said Judith Tizard.