Warning for ‘regretful’ bargain hunters over link to mental illness

Researchers found 75 per cent of people said they didnt return the last online purchase they regretted. Photograph: PA

Researchers found 75 per cent of people said they didnt return the last online purchase they regretted. Photograph: PA

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The January sales in shops and online are over for another year and while some people may be proudly showing off their new-found bargains, others could be counting the cost of “buyer’s regret”.

Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a charity founded by consumer champion Martin Lewis, has highlighted people’s difficult relationships with online sales.

It found nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of people who have made purchases they later regret do so because of sales. Nearly one in 10 (9 per cent) say they always, or often, regret purchases they make online.

Polly Mackenzie, director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, says increased spending can be a symptom of a number of mental health problems.

This type of spending isn’t driven by people being “greedy”, she says, but by their emotions – such as boredom, depression or loneliness.

The Institute found around half (48 per cent) of people with mental health problems say they make purchases they regret when they’re alone. Just over half (52 per cent) do so when they are feeling low and nearly a third (31 per cent) do so while shopping at night.

Many people also struggle to return goods they regret buying, with three-quarters (75 per cent) of people saying they didn’t return the last online purchase they regretted, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) of those with mental health problems didn’t return their last regretted online purchase because they felt too ashamed.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has launched a free, experimental tool to help people control their spending.

The “shopper stopper” allows shoppers to set the opening hours of online stores, enabling them to block access at times they find purchases particularly hard to resist, such as the middle of the night.

Lewis says: “Many people shop to make themselves feel better in periods of depression, to give things to others or feel needed, or to fill the time when they’re bored or lonely. But the boost it gives is transitory, while the financial pain it can cause lingers on and on.”

More details about the shopper stopper tool can be found at www.shopperstopper.co.uk

Meanwhile, if the goods you’ve bought in the sales turn out to be faulty, consumer group Which? has an online tool to help at www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-do-i-do-if-i-have-a-faulty-product

The tool can be used to automatically generate a letter to send to the retailer requesting a refund, replacement or repair, where appropriate.

Vickie Sheriff, director of campaigns and communications at Which?, says: “If you’ve bought or been given a dud, it’s vital that you know your rights and act fast if something is not right.”

Here are some general tips from Which? for those who have bought faulty products:

 You have the right to reject and return your item and get a refund within 30 days of purchase;

 You could ask the retailer to repair or replace your item within six months of purchase;

 Your rights against the retailer can last for up to six years, but you would need to prove a fault was present at the time of purchase after the first six months.

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