Your Christmas Shopping Consumer Rights What to do - and where you stand - when things go wrong

As a parent, particularly as a mother, the lead up to Christmas can be fraught: there’s your children’s parties and nativities to attend, the classmates’ cards to write and the present shopping to be done. And this year, I cocked up.

Not because of the last-minute revisions to my daughter’s letter to Santa, but somehow, I managed to buy duplicate items  not once, not twice, not even on three occasions. Yes, four times this month I accidentally bought the same item twice – each time in the same online order.

I suspect it has something to do with my constant multi-tasking, adding things to an online shopping basket while simultaneously answering emails and posting on social media. Yesterday, I even coloured my hair while I wrote an article and bought a few last minute pressies in the rush before school pick up.

It seems that once I get distracted, then return to the retailer’s website, I have no recollection that I’ve put items in my basket already – only to add the same products again. It is not until the package arrives a few days later that I notice.

It also appears that I don’t double check my orders, but that’s another issue.

Good thing I bought online

Luckily, I bought these surplus items online and thanks to the Consumer Contracts Regulations, I have additional rights. Under this law, shoppers can cancel orders for most goods bought online from the moment the order is places until 14 days from the day you receive your goods, and get a full refund – no questions asked. Of course, there are some items you can’t return if you simply change your mind, such as CDs, DVDs or computer software if you’ve broken the seal on the wrapping, perishable items such as food and flowers, and tailor-made or personalised goods.

What’s more, you then have a further 14 days from the date you notified the retailer you were cancelling your order to return the goods. Had I bought the stuff in a high street shop, I wouldn’t necessarily be given a refund – more about this below.

Unfortunately for me, all three retailers charge for return postage to be deducted from my refund, though was happy to waive these when I asked in an online web chat. Shame I can’t say the same about Sports Direct or The Book People.

But these gift-buying mistakes got me thinking about where we stand if our Christmas shopping goes crackers. Do you know your shopping rights and the protection you are entitled to when things go wrong? You may have more than you think. Here are a few of the queries you might experience this Christmas – and what you can do about it.



What if you simply change your mind?

While it may seem hard to believe, if you buy an item on the high street you have no right to a refund if you change your mind. However, some shops may allow refunds or exchanges as part of their own policies. These may have their own conditions attached.

But all retailers – both on the high street and online – have a duty under the Consumer Rights Act, which replaced the Sale of Goods Act on 1 October 2015. The Consumer Rights Act has made some changes to your rights to return faulty goods and get a refund, replacement or repair, and gives you new rights when you buy digital content.

Under the Consumer Rights Act all products (including digital) must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

If you buy a product that has a problem for one of these reasons, you can choose to “reject” it, return it and get your money back – so long as you act quickly, just 30 days from the date you buy your product. After this, you will not be legally entitled to a full refund if your item develops a fault, although some sellers may offer you an extended refund period.

Don’t be put off if you no longer have a receipt for faulty goods because you are required only to prove the purchase. You could supply a bank or credit card statement instead.


You find a price glitch – does that retailer have to honour it?

Unfortunately not. This is a case of “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. If you happen to spot something that is incorrectly priced you have no legal right to buy it for that price. If you get to the till and the sales assistant notices, the retailer is within its rights to refuse to sell it to you for that price. This is also the case if you order an item online – if the mistake is noticed before you have been contacted by the retailer to confirm the sale, there is no legally binding contract and it is within its rights to refuse the sale.

However, if your sale has been accepted, you can insist that the retailer sells you the goods for the price at which they were advertised. Which?, the consumer group, said that in this case you might be able to buy the same item elsewhere and claim against the original trader for the difference in price. To do this you should write to the retailer in the first instance, explaining what you are doing.

The trader could try to argue that it made a mistake with the pricing, voiding the contract. But it would have to show that the price was so low that you must have known it was not genuine: for example, a new PS4 for a couple of pounds. 

Your delivery does not arrive in time

I’m sure that I’m not the only one still waiting for their Christmas shopping to arrive – some of us may even have gone out and bought gifts so they aren’t caught out on the big day – I panic bought my daughter’s new telescope, only for it to arrive the very next day.

However, don’t assume that you can reclaim your money back after Christmas if presents arrive late.  Unless you or the retailer have specified (and can prove) that it was for pre-Christmas delivery, you won’t have the right to redress.

If pre-Christmas delivery was specified, late arrival is a breach of contract and you’ve a right to a refund. Even if Christmas delivery isn’t specified, things should be delivered within a reasonable time, usually 30 days.

The retailer is responsible for goods until they are in your physical possession, or in the possession of someone appointed by you to accept them.

This means that retailers are liable for the service provided by the couriers they employ – the delivery firm is not liable.

The retailer is responsible for the goods until they are delivered to you and in your possession.