Unwanted Christmas Gifts: Your Rights to Return

Many of us are still adjusting to post-pandemic changes to the ways we carry out everyday tasks, such as shopping and interacting with others. Now that we are in the full-throws of the Festive Season, it is more important than ever for us to be aware of our consumer rights when it comes to receiving goods and returning online purchases when we have to.

Even with the best intentions when it comes to buying gifts, we can’t always get it right. From purchasing the wrong size of Christmas jumper to ordering the incorrect colour of phone case,  many of us rely on the robust returns policies of our favourite retailers, and the ability to swap a gift for something more appropriate when required.

Rights to Refunds and Exchanges

With many retailers promoting early Christmas shopping to avoid disappointment, and encouraging people to buy early, it’s important that we understand the policies of retailers to allow us added peace of mind when making purchases.

Shoppers should double-check the retailer’s returns policies, which are usually available on their websites, or displayed in-store and on paper receipts. No retailers’ returns policy will affect your statutory rights, covered by the Consumer Rights Act.

The Consumer Rights Act gives you the legal right to either get a refund for goods that are of unsatisfactory quality; unfit for purpose or not as described; or to get a repair – depending on how long you’ve owned it:

0 – 30 days – You’re entitled to a full refund for goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.

30 days – six months – You must give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace it before you can claim a refund.

Six months or more – you must give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace it before you can claim a partial refund, and the burden of proof is on you to prove the product is faulty.

Your right to a refund starts when you take ownership of the item – either the day you purchased the item and took it away or the date you received the delivery, if this was the case.

If you’ve purchased something that has turned out to be faulty, you should contact the seller to ask for a refund, repair or replacement under the Consumer Rights Act.

Returning a gift bought 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 in which you can 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 returns 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.

Returning something that’s faulty

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:

  • Games
  • Movies or TV Programs
  • Music
  • Apps
  • Software

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 option here.

Unreturnable gifts

Many shops will accept returns of non-faulty items, but there are exceptions:

  • Perishable goods – such as food and flowers
  • Items that have been worn – this could be ear-rings, make-up, toiletries, underwear or swimwear
  • Package unsealed – Refunds for DVDs, music and computer software that aren’t damaged are at the store’s discretion, with many having rules on opened or damaged packaging
  • Personalised gifts that are made-to-measure or marked with your name, initials, dates or images

While legally you don’t have rights to a refund or exchange for the items above, you may find that the retailer has a generous policy. It’s always worth asking.

Some of the top UK toy retailers’ returns policies:



Usual returns policy


Extended returns policy


Returnable items within 30 days of delivery. Not yet extended. Most items sold and fulfilled by Amazon between 1 November 2021 and 31 December 2021 can be returned until 31 January 2022
Argos Return an unwanted item within 30 days of purchase. Exchanges are dependent on current stock levels, refund offered if unable to offer an exchange. Items purchased from Sunday 17 October through to Saturday 25 December can be returned up to Monday 24 January.
Hamleys Refund for unwanted toys within 60 days of purchase and 90 days for an exchange Not yet extended.
John Lewis & Partners Returns within 35 days for a refund or exchange. Online and telephone orders must be returned in full within 14 days for a refund of the delivery charge. Returns window extended to 28 January for unwanted items for items purchased between 1 October 2021 and 24 December 2021.
Smyths Returns within 28 days of purchase. Items purchased from 6 September 2021 can be returned until 31 January 2022. Excludes Software and Nursery Returns.
The Entertainer Returns within 28 days of purchase. Any purchase made between 1st October and 24th December 2021 can be returned up until 21st January 2022, with a valid till or gift receipt.

*Note – this information was correct at time of writing. You should refer to retailer returns policies online or in-store for the most recent information.

Advice Direct Scotland are running our ‘Countdown to Christmas’ 2021. The campaign aims to share advice and information on a range of subjects, looking at how Scottish citizens can enjoy the festive period in safe and cost-effective ways, avoiding overspending and being left with a financial headache in the new year. For more information, you can visit the campaign page.

If you have concerns about refunds or returns, or any other consumer matter, you can contactconsumeradvice.scoton 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.

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