Festive Sales & Purchases: Returns & Refund Rights

With many products and services being more expensive than in previous years, it’s important to ensure that things we buy meet the required standards and we are getting what we paid for.

But what happens if they don’t? How can we ensure our consumer rights are being upheld and we are making the most of our money?

Let’s look at what we can do when products aren’t what we thought we ordered or expected.

Returning an Unwanted Item 

It is important to understand that returns and refunds policies can vary from one retailer to another. This can affect what you will need to do to have your purchase refunded if required.

Individual retailers have their own policies in place, with many opting to process returns as goodwill. For purchases made in store, unless a product is faulty, a retailer is not required to give a full refund for goods that are unwanted, or if you change your mind.

The retailer may offer store credit, or a voucher as an offer of goodwill, and will usually have their own policies in relation to this. A retailer is not legally required to have a policy in place, but if they do, they must follow it. Retailer returns policies can usually be found on their websites, in store, or by checking the receipts supplied at the point of sale.

If you are purchasing items and expect you may have to send them back, for example different sized items to try them on at home, you should check the policy of the retailer in question prior to making a purchase to avoid disappointment.

Returning Items Purchased Online, Over the Phone, or Mail Order

For these types of returns, Consumer Contract Regulations state that you can cancel an online order up to 14 days after receiving it, followed by a 14-day period within which to send your items back.

The simplest way to navigate these policies is to check with the retailer to find out how, when, and where your item should be returned. Some merchants will ship your order with a form already included, but if this is not the case, a visit to the retailer’s website should help you figure out your next steps.

Faulty or Damaged Items

If you have purchased an item that turns out to be faulty or damaged, your consumer rights entitle you to a full refund within 30 days.

If your return exceeds the 30-day threshold, then you are no longer covered by the ‘short-term right to reject’ and may only be entitled to a repair, replacement, or partial-refund of your item.

If you find your item faulty within 6 months of purchase, it is assumed that the fault was present at the time you bought the item, then the retailer is obligated to replace, repair, or refund the item.

If you find fault in an item after 6 months of purchase, you will need to prove that the fault was there at the time of purchase.

Otherwise, the retailer is not obligated to fulfill the return. Again, this can vary, so double-checking the policy of the retailer in relation to faulty goods is worthwhile.

Returning Digital Content or Data

The rules on digital products, such as software and games downloads differ slightly.

Digital content such as a mobile phone app or a downloaded computer game or software is covered under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This states that digital content should be:

  • Of satisfactory quality (free from faults)
  • Fit for the purpose made known (for example if you asked the trader for software compatible with a particular device, then find out its not compatible)
  • Match the trader’s description
  • Be the traders to supply or they should have permission to supply the content

What am I entitled to?

If you believe the content to be faulty when purchased, then you can ask the trader to repair or replace if it which they should do within a reasonable period of time.

If it’s not possible for the trader to repair or replace the content or it wasn’t the theirs to sell then you may be entitled to a full or partial refund to account for use.

If you ask the trader for a repair or replacement within the first 6 months of purchasing the goods, it then falls to the trader to prove they were not faulty when they were sold to you. After this 6-month period it falls to the you to prove otherwise.

If you purchase or receive free digital content from a trader and it causes damage to your device or any other digital content that you own, then you can ask the trader to repair the damage for free and within a reasonable period of time. If it’s not possible for the trader to repair the damage, then you may be entitled to claim damages under Scottish Common Law.

What should I do next?

If you haven’t already done so, then you should try to speak with the trader about your problem to see if you can to come to an agreement.

You can then follow this up with a more formal letter of complaint. It’s best to send this by signed for mail which will allow you to check that it’s been received, alternatively you could send an email with a read receipt. You should also give the trader a reasonable timescale to reply.

Advice Direct Scotland’s top tips for navigating returns and refunds this Festive Season:

  • Know your rights! – The Consumer Rights Act (2015) entitles you to a full refund of faulty items within 30 days of purchase. Some retailers may have a different timescale – always check!

  • Online purchases have slightly different rules –Online purchases can be cancelled up to 14 days after ordering, with a further 14 days to send the item back to the retailer for a full refund or exchange.

  • Faulty goods timescales –Faulty items returned within 6 months of purchase are covered for repair or replacement with most retailers. After 6 months, the retailer is not obligated to fulfill the repair/replacement unless you can prove that the item was faulty when you purchased it.

  • Rules on digital products differ – You do not have the same rights to refunds for digital goods, but you are entitled to a repair, replacement, price reduction, or compensation if the item is faulty or causes damage to your device.

Need Additional Support?

The team can offer advice and information on a range of consumer-related matters. Call 0808 164 6000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) or visit