Unwanted Gifts: Know Your Rights

Posted on: 09 December 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We all get unwanted Christmas presents, but do you know your rights when it comes to returning items?

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s David Harker takes us through the options for both gift givers and receivers to make Christmas presents less of a minefield.

Rights To A Refund

Contrary to popular opinion, shops are not obliged to offer a refund, or even a credit note unless the good are faulty. Only the person who bought the goods will have the statutory rights to return them.

This can be remedied if the buyer lets the trader know that it is a gift for someone else and the trader agrees to that person being able to return them.

Ask the trader to write the name of the person the gift is for on the receipts, invoices or similar and be clear about what is on offer e.g. will they just a swap for another size or colour or will they refund.

Many shops are more accommodating, particularly after Christmas, but they are operating above and beyond your ‘statutory’ rights.

Receipts & Proof Of Purchase

If you want a refund it always helps if you have the receipt as it’s unlikely you will get a cash refund without one. This can prove difficult with Christmas gifts unless a forward thinking present giver has kept the receipt for this purpose.

Even with a receipt most shops are only happy to give a full refund within a limited time, most stipulate 28 days from proof of purchase. When buying potentially tricky gifts for other people ensure you purchase the item as close to them being received as possible to allow for limited return times.

Proof of purchase does not just mean a till receipt. You could also show a bank or credit card statement instead.

Gifts Purchased With A Card

If the gift was bought with a debit or credit card, any refund will normally be credited back to the cardholder.

It may be easier to opt for an exchange or ask the gift giver whether they can exchange it for you.

Distance Selling

Using Credit Card OnlineIf you have purchased, or the gift you have been given was purchased either online, via the television, mail order, phone or fax then this is known as ‘distance selling’ and you have some extra rights.

All items sold ‘at distance’ come with a cooling-off period of seven working days. This means that regardless of whether an item purchased online is faulty, you are entitled to return it in the same condition within the seven working days period and receive a full refund.

It is always best to cancel distance orders as soon as possible to avoid having to pay to return the goods if they have already been despatched, as return postage charges can be the customer's responsibility. Check the paperwork for confirmation.

Even within the slightly more relaxed rules of distance selling there are still some goods you cannot return. Fresh flowers, food, newspapers and magazines, DVDs and CDs and any item that has been personalised are excluded from the seven day rule.

Alternative Options

If you have been given an unwanted gift and don’t have a receipt or other proof of purchase, and don't know where or when the gift was bought, there are still options to prevent it from gathering dust.

You could give them as gifts the following year - just not to the person who originally gave it. You could also recycle unwanted gifts by selling or swapping them online.

Online Auctions

An online auction is one way for people wanting to sell on their unwanted goods. Over a million unwanted Christmas presents were listed on eBay in the week after Christmas 2007 – and for many sellers it was the first time they had sold anything in this way.

Over the last few years online swap shops and community recycling sites have also become more popular ways to relieve yourself of unwanted goods without feeling entirely out of pocket. They are also environmentally friendly as they keep unwanted goods out of landfills.

Charity Shops

Finally, if you’re more concerned with your unwanted gift going to a good home than about profit, charity shops are an excellent way of ensuring that unwanted goods get re-used. All charities and their shops are non profit, so all money made will go directly towards the cause.

Recently charity shops have seen a surge in customers, with many people heading to them for specific goods at bargain prices. Conversely however, many of them are starting to see a drop in donations, meaning their stocks are running low. So giving away your unwanted gifts could be the best Christmas present they get this year.

Have you received unwanted gifts? Do you have any ideas on how to 'recycle' your presents without causing offence?

If so, why not leave a comment in the box below, or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums?


For further information on consumer rights, visit http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/.

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