2020 has brought unprecedented changes to the way we do many things – including how we shop. This Christmas season, it is especially important to be aware of your options when it comes to returning items, especially during a time when many of us are turning to online retailers for our holiday purchases.
Despite Scottish retailers re-opening just in time for Christmas, store footfall is expected to drop by an astonishing 62% compared to last year’s festive period, according to internetretailing.net, the online publication for ecommerce and retailing
For many, the safety and increasing accessibility of online stores have incentivised shoppers to move off the high street and onto the web for their Christmas purchases. This is considering new warnings from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for Scots to avoid Covid-19 hotspots such as city centres and shopping malls in direct response to recent growth in cases.
Already, online retailers and e-commerce services have predicted a spike in sales over the festive period, focusing on digital marketing to increase virtual traffic. Online platforms are playing a greater role than ever before in how we shop.
Receiving an item that is unwanted, unneeded, or even defective is an experience which most of us are likely to have experienced at some point – especially during the festive period.
With many shoppers making the digital switch this year, the challenge of navigating online returns procedures may be intimidating for some, particularly those who are not familiar with what the process entails.
consumeradvice.scot have put together best practice, tips, and information to help make your Christmas returns and refunds process as clear and simple as possible.
Returning an Unwanted Item
It is important to understand that return/refund policies can vary from one retailer to another. This can affect what you will need to do to have your purchase refunded.
Individual retailers have their own policies on refunds and returns, with many opting to process returns as goodwill. 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 returns. A retailer is not legally required to have a policy in place, but if they do, they must follow this.
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 return them (for example different sized items to try them on at home), you should check the returns policy of the retailer in question.
Returning Items Online
For most online 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 return.
The simplest way to navigate the return of your unwanted item 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 return 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: 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 fulfil 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
Everything we have covered so far applies to the return of physical items; if you have bought or received a digital item (i.e., something you cannot physically hold in your hands), then your rights are slightly different.
If you are unsure, digital items can include:
- Movies or TV Programs
The first thing to be aware of is that you are not automatically entitled to the same 30-day refund with digital purchases (as you are with physical items).
As with faulty items, if your digital purchase does not function as advertised, does not play/run properly, or is otherwise faulty, you can ask the retailer to repair or replace it. Failing this, you may be able to claim a price reduction on your purchase of up to 100% – acting fast and getting in touch with the retailer is your best bet here.
If a digital item you have purchased causes damage to your device, then you are entitled to compensation for the damage – or to have your device repaired or replaced by the retailer (provided you can demonstrate that the digital content is at fault).
Remember to follow our 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 fulfil 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.