“I recently bought a Christmas present online for my nephew, realised it was not what he wanted when I received it and needed to return it. What are my rights when returning a present I have bought online?”
Simon Horwood, Litigation Executive, Clarke & Son replies:
Online purchases are governed by the Consumer Contracts Regulations. The Consumer Contracts Regulations allow 14 calendar days from the day after you receive the goods to cancel. You are responsible for returning the item within 14 calendar days of cancelling and refunds must be paid within 14 calendar days after the return of the goods or evidence that they were returned. You still have rights under the Consumer Rights Act for returning faulty goods bought online. Here you do not have a faulty item but you have an item that is not what you want. Unlike the rules covering a purchase on the High Street where you could only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund if the retailer has a returns policy, your right to cancel an online order for goods gives you these key cancellation rights from when you enter into contracts at a distance over the phone, online, or from a catalogue. These cancellation rights are more generous than if you bought goods or services from a High Street shop. The 14 day period however could be a difficulty in relation to the Christmas period. The minimum cancellation period that you must be given is 14 days but many sellers choose to extend this so it is always worth checking the terms and conditions in case you do have longer to change your mind (which does impact over the festive period for obvious reasons when people are selling goods that are going to be given as gifts).
There are some circumstances where the Consumer Contracts Regulations won’t give you a right to cancel. These include CDs, DVDs or software if you have broken the seal on the wrapping. This also includes perishable items and tailor-made or personalised items. The removal of a right to cancel would also include goods that have been mixed inseparably with other items after delivery.
It is also worth mentioning that when you buy goods or services from a trader based in another EU country some of your rights could depend on the laws of that country. Some consumer rights laws are broadly the same across the EU. This includes currently the Consumer Contracts Regulations but others depend on the legislation of a particular country, for example the Consumer Rights Act or Sale of Goods Act. Again you should check what the seller’s terms and conditions say about returns before placing the order. The law sets out the minimum requirements for returns but some traders may choose to exceed this.
If you want to get a refund or replacement of an item bought from another EU country some of the UK consumer rights, such as rights under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, are still protected. If you need help in settling a claim the European Small Claims Procedure can help you seek redress.
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