Let the buying season commence! Shops and retailers, both online and in the ‘real world’ are gearing up for the onslaught of retail therapy that is Christmas. From mad dashes around the shops on Christmas Eve to ‘Click and Collect’ purchases made from the comfort of your laptop, ‘tis the season to get those cash registers jingling merrily.
We always look at consumers’ Christmas guides from the point of view of the purchaser, but what if you’re the receiver? Here’s a quick point by point guide to your rights this Christmas.
Poor quality goods are the bane of Christmas – toys that break the second you open the box, cheap perfume that promises so much but just smells like Eau de rotten eggs, and bath salts that make you itch. As with any consumer, you have a right to expect your goods to be of a certain standard, fit for purpose, and to be a true representation of the goods as advertised. However, it’s very difficult for you to get any kind of redress unless you’re the purchaser. The best thing to do is to talk to the person who gave you the gift in the first place and explain to them that there’s an issue with the quality of the goods.
It’s up to the person who bought the gift to take up any issues about their purchase with the vendor. Remember that if a refund is offered then it will go to the person who bought the item (so if they’ve bought it on a credit or debit card then the refund will be credited to them, and not the gift recipient). Exchanges should be easy if an item is faulty, as retailers are obliged to exchange or refund in the event of a broken or damaged item. If the item is simply unwanted then it can depend upon whether you bought the item in a shop, or (for instance) online. In either case, the retailer might have a contractual returns policy, such as allowing a purchaser to return an unopened item within 30 days. If you purchased online, you will likely also have a legal right to return the item within the usual 14-day cooling off period. If it’s beyond that period then it’s down to the retailer’s discretion as to whether a refund is offered.
In a worst-case scenario, a gift may not just be poor quality, it could cause you actual physical harm. If a gift causes an injury or illness, who is responsible, the person who gave it to you, or the manufacturer? Well, if the injury was caused by a faulty or dangerous object then it’s down to the manufacturer to step up and take responsibility. However, once again you’re going to need the cooperation of your gift giver, as the when, where and how of the gift purchasing process will play an important part in any compensation claim.
As the injured party, the compensation claim for any injury will go to you, although a small percentage of that may go to the person who actually paid for the gift in the first place. It’s well worth talking to a consumer rights specialist to find out what you’re entitled to if a gift is the cause of an injury. It may also be worth contacting your local Trading Standards officer (if the item was bought locally), especially if there is a concern that other buyers could be at risk of the same kind of injury. This is particularly important if the item is a child’s toy and there are concerns that it doesn’t conform to safety standards.
We’ve all had that jumper we hated, that ‘essential kitchen thingy’ that’s not quite as essential as you thought, or a box-set of a programme we’ll never watch. This can be the single most difficult conversation of all – the ‘Did you keep the receipt?’ one that sends out a clear message that you really don’t like the present. If you can move past that particularly awkward social embarrassment then there are ways to rectify the situation without too much fuss. If it’s a simple matter of exchanging an item of clothing for a larger or smaller size then there should be no problem.
Retailers these days are also aware that things like colour and style are a matter of personal choice, and when we’re buying for other people we don’t always get it right. Many retailers will extend return periods around Christmas so presents can be exchanged right through until mid-January. If you’re the gift purchaser, it’s always wise to keep hold of receipts, just in case.
Some retailers won’t take back goods once they’ve been opened, so bear that in mind before you break the seal on a plastic bag, or try on certain items of clothing. You’ll find that the majority of retailers will not accept returns on video games once the plastic wrapping has been removed.
It can be difficult to reject a Christmas gift, especially if the person giving it to you has gone to a lot of trouble to find something they think you’ll love. Remember that it’s the thought that counts, and if you really don’t want to upset Aunty Doris by telling her the jumper she bought you is hideous, simply smile, give it a few weeks, and then donate it to a charity collection.
If, however, you’ve been injured by a gift, or a retailer is trying to dodge their responsibilities when it comes to misrepresented, poor quality or faulty goods then talk to a legal expert specialising in consumer law for advice.