MARTIN LEWIS: Arm yourself for Christmas
10:40am Wednesday 14th December 2011 in Martin Lewis
FAR TOO many people throw cash away at Christmas, thinking “I can always exchange it later”.
Often that’s just wrong. Shops can be sticklers at this time of year, so the only way to protect your pocket is tool up on your legal consumer rights.
So here’s a crash course – these are the ten things everyone should know about Christmas shopping.
1. You’ve NO rights if you change your mind.
If you buy goods IN-STORE and it’s the wrong colour or size or little Johnny turns his nose up at his gift, you’ve NO legal right to a refund, exchange or credit note.
Some of you may be thinking, ‘Surely that’s not correct? They’ve let me do it many times’. Well they’ve let you, but you’ve no right.
And if they want to choose not to – as is more common during the busy Christmas or January sales periods – they can.
2. Buy online or by phone and you’ve more rights.
While many worry about online shopping safety, in consumer rights terms it’s a boon.
The Distance Selling Regulations mean buy online or by phone and you have a right to change your mind within seven days of receiving goods, even if there’s no fault. Just send it back to get a refund of the price and delivery charge, though not the cost of returning it.
This is why many people have become ‘roboshoppers’, researching offline, buying online. Mrs Money- SavingExpert often does this for bigger items, going to the store to look and ordering online for extra rights.
3. If it’s faulty, you always have a right to return.
If you buy faulty goods or services, whether in-store, online or even if in a sale or with a voucher, take them back quickly and you’ve full refund rights – simple as that.
4. Learn your SAD FART rights.
The real question’s ‘what is ‘faulty?’ To help you remember, I came up with the mnemonic SAD FART. So all goods must be ...
Satisfactory quality, As Described, Fit for purpose, And last a Reasonable length of Time.
If not, they’re faulty. If you’re returning goods, it helps to quote the name of the law this comes from: the Sale of Goods Act 1979, or for services, the Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982.
To help, I’ve a free miniwallet ‘Sad Fart’ guide you can download and print at www.moneysavingexpert.com/minisadfart
5. Your rights are with the store, not manufacturer.
Don’t be fobbed off. With faulty goods, if the shop says “send it to the manufacturer”, that’s nonsense. Legally, your relationship is with the shop and it must sort it, so stick to your guns.
6. If it’s not faulty, then what it says goes.
I often hear: “It wouldn’t let me change the colour without a receipt, but I had my bank statement as proof. What are my rights?”
Sadly, you’ve none. Stores are going beyond the law just by giving no-fault exchanges, so if they say a receipt’s needed, it is.
That’s unless its published returns policy says differently, in which case it’s enforceable, as that’s part of your contract.
7. Write ‘it’s a gift’ on the receipt (if it is).
Legally, only the person who bought the gift has rights, so the recipient can’t exchange.
Many shops ignore this, but, for safety, use a gift certificate or get the shop to write on its copy of the receipt and yours that it’s a gift and who for. Rights are then transferred.
8. Receipts aren’t necessary if goods are faulty.
To return faulty goods, any legit proof of purchase, eg, bank statement, should be fine. Yet receipts are easiest (and usually required for no-fault returns), so try to keep them.
9. Buying on a credit card gives more protection.
Pay on a credit card (not debit, cash or cheque) and if the goods cost over £100, the card company’s jointly liable if anything goes wrong — valuable extra protection.
Though, of course, do repay in full each month to avoid interest.
10. Return faulty goods at speed.
When you return goods determines your rights. These are the key timelines: • Under about four weeks for a full refund. You’re entitled to a full refund if you’ve not ‘accepted’ goods – this isn’t strictly defined, but a good rule of thumb is within a month. After, expect exchange or repair.
• Under six months and law favours you. Until then, the shop must prove goods weren’t faulty when it sold ‘em. After, you must prove they were faulty.
• Goods must last a reasonable time. One of the definitions of ‘fault’ is not lasting long enough. As for what’s reasonable, I’d say it’s reasonable to expect a £1,000 TV to last 18 months, but not a 50p torch.
• Those are your rights, but if a shop refuses, the problem’s enforcing them.
If you’re struggling, see my more detailed www.moneysavingexpert.com/consumerrights