Know your rights when Christmas goes wrong

You can still return goods up to six months after the purchase. Picture: John Devlin
You can still return goods up to six months after the purchase. Picture: John Devlin
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As there are loads of guides on how to survive Christmas and the New Year out there, I’m going to focus on a few useful tips for everyone who’s feeling a little overwhelmed as the countdown to Christmas begins. So no matter whether you’re facing down the high street or staring blankly at the laptop and waiting for inspiration, I’ll help you know your rights should things go wrong.

First up, your right to return stuff. The good news is we’ve got lots of rights when it comes to goods or services that don’t work. However, there are certain time limits you need to bear in mind. This is particularly important if you’re shopping well in advance of Christmas day itself as this could affect whether the person you’re buying for is able to return the item.

The rules (in this case, the Consumer Rights Act 2015) say that you have 30 days from the date the goods were bought to return the item if it’s wonky or isn’t as it was described. This matters because if you’ve paid for an item to be delivered by Santa Claus direct, or pre-wrapped, so you won’t necessarily know if something is awry.

If you buy gifts now, that takes you perilously close to the 30-day limit for returning items. Don’t worry – you can still return goods up to six months after the purchase, though afterwards your options often switch to repair or replacement. We’ve got loads of details about this on the Resolver website.

So snap up a bargain now if you like, but it doesn’t hurt to mention that there’s a time limit on returning things if they don’t do what they say on the box.

Next up, what happens if your package doesn’t arrive on time? What with online sales and spontaneous shopping on your phone, it’s easy to get carried away and click on the order button without checking key details. Here are a few things to watch for so you can dodge a delivery disaster at Christmas:

 Are the goods coming from the UK or from abroad? Loads of people get caught out on this one. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a bargain online might become less of a bargain when shipping costs are factored in.

 Are you paying in pounds? Another easy one to miss. If you buy items for sale in a foreign currency you’ll pay the rate of exchange when the firm presents the bill to your bank – and a “conversion charge”. Add to that the deeply underwhelming performance of the pound and the costs can be high.

 What’s the delivery date? Most online firms will give you a delivery “estimate”. This doesn’t guarantee delivery but if it’s well in advance of Christmas, they are giving your “reasonable expectations” you’ll have the item on time. The firm you buy off is responsible for the delivery company so get to the retailer even if their contractor is in error.

 Check the address. Many a gift has vanished in to the netherworld of postal sorting departments because of old addresses stored with online retailers. Check your details before you click.

 Allow at least two weeks before Christmas for your items to arrive. If they’re not on time, you’ve got time to make a complaint. The firm can deliver you a replacement for a broken or missing item while they sort out the complaint, so be pushy.

We’d love to hear your shopping stories and delivery disasters. Get in touch at www.resolver.co.uk.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk