Nerdy Note: Shops don't have to offer return policies

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Money Saving Polls
7 replies 1.8K views
Former_MSE_ArchnaFormer_MSE_Archna Former MSE
1.9K Posts
MSE Staff
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Money Saving Polls
Buy something then change your mind and a shop doesn't legally have to let you return it. Often they do, though they're just being PR savvy (or nice!).

They only have to when there's a fault with the item. Bizarrely one exception's online or catalogue shopping, when you can always cancel within seven days of receipt. Read more in the Consumer Rights article

Click 'post reply' to discuss below.


Want to suggest a Nerdy Money Note...

Got a nerdy money fact you'd like to see in the weekly email? E-mail [EMAIL="nerdynote@moneysavingexpert.com"]Nerdy Notes[/EMAIL]

Replies

  • I thought that under the Consumer Protection Act, all retailers had a 28 day guarantee where the consumer could return items, regardless of 'fault' ?
  • alanfpalanfp Forumite
    150 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    No - I'm afraid not. Which is quite reasonable really. Imagine you've just sold your car to a neighbour, taken the cash down to your local Ford dealer as a deposit, taken delivery of your new Mondeo, and then neighbour pops round 3 weeks later to say his wife doesn't like the colour and he'd like you to take the car back and he wants his £3000 back.... What would YOU say?

    A sale is a contract, and you agree to take the item and pay the money (unless you specifically say at the time "can I change this if my wife doesn't like it when I get it home?").
  • MSE_Archna wrote: »
    Buy something then change your mind and a shop doesn't legally have to let you return it.[EMAIL="nerdynote@moneysavingexpert.com"][/EMAIL]

    As it should be.
  • I am a lawyer and would like offer some practical advise for those at moneysaving expert, particularly the writer of the "nerdy note". While your note is technically correct, it may not offer the best advise for consumers. Please consider a few points:

    1. Though your note is not incorrect and shops do indeed not need to offer a returns policy it is often the case that the returns policy, if the shop attempted to enforce the policy in court would actually be trumped by the sale of goods act 1979. Clauses in returns policies sometimes favour the consumer, particularly for high-end shops but for the likes of, for example, argos, their returns policy does not accurately represent the rights of consumers, and in fact will often lead to the consumer NOT getting a refund or exchange.

    2. It is also true that shops do not have to accept a return of goods, it is also true that in the majority of cases section 14 of the sale of goods act 1979 as amended by the sale of goods to consumers regulations will allow the consumer an adequate reason to return the item, for example that the goods are not fit "for all common purposes". The purpose of my blue ornament is to decorate my room, if I take it home and find that a red ornament would look better or the blue ornament does not fit the purpose of decoration then that is legitimate enough reason for return. This is only one example and section 14 requires very close reading.

    3. Staff in shops and consumers in general have a big problem understanding point 2 above. This problem is caused by shops return policies. Staff follow the policy, not the law, and so the consumer is disadvantaged. Because of the policy the consumer feels that they have no further action available.

    4. If a visit to the shop in question, email to seller or other communication with a seller does not result in a refund the best course of action for the consumer is not to think "well that's it, the shop doesn't need to accept a return", the best course of action is rather to telephone or write to the head office of the company and explain the situation, explaining in particular that the company returns policy may not actually represent what the sale of goods act allows the consumer to do.

    5. As a general point the Sale of Goods Act 1979 is a deceptively complex piece of legislation, there are many amending statutes and there is some difficult case law. This means that sending out generalisations to ordinary consumers is not a good idea. Each case is different and requires consideration on an individual basis.

    Please don't think I'm trying to get at you here, I just want consumers to make the most of their rights, often they don't!!

    lawlawlaw

    P.S. With respect both alanfp and dazchief are wrong. The sale of goods act (in almost all respects) applies to a business-consumer sale, NOT a consumer-consumer sale. So buying something from your neighbour if both of you are acting in an ordinary capacity will not be covered by the sale of goods act. Therefore you are correct in one your conclusion alanfp, your neighbour cannot return the goods simply for that reason but your reasoning is incorrect.
  • Marty_JMarty_J Forumite
    6.6K Posts
    lawlawlaw wrote: »
    2. It is also true that shops do not have to accept a return of goods, it is also true that in the majority of cases section 14 of the sale of goods act 1979 as amended by the sale of goods to consumers regulations will allow the consumer an adequate reason to return the item, for example that the goods are not fit "for all common purposes". The purpose of my blue ornament is to decorate my room, if I take it home and find that a red ornament would look better or the blue ornament does not fit the purpose of decoration then that is legitimate enough reason for return. This is only one example and section 14 requires very close reading.

    But section 14 states it "does not extend to any matter making the quality of goods unsatisfactory which is specifically drawn to the buyer's attention before the contract is made and where the buyer examines the goods before the contract is made, which that examination ought to reveal".

    If you knew you were buying a blue ornament, I don't see how you could return it because you decide later you want a red one instead.
  • Thanks for your comment Marty J. Your quotation of the act is correct, but that perhaps it is my example which is poor. I am sure that if my example was played out in reality something in the act would cover that situation. I would draw to your attention that other sections in the 1979 act provide for a "reasonable time" to inspect for the consumer. This reasonable time to inspect may include taking the item home and inspecting it there. For example, you buy the blue ornament on impulse i (ie you dont inspect in store) and on inspection at home you find that it in fact doesn't match. In this instance you are covered by the act.

    This is what I am getting at in my prevoius post. Sale of goods is not a straight forward area.
  • I bought an Apple Mac Mini for £399 from a premium reseller called Apogaeum which is in Warrington on the 23rd of August; I then found the product was faulty, so I returned the next day on the 24th.

    I spoke to someone in store and explained my problem and they offered me a full refund, so I went to the car to retrieve the computer. When I returned they refused the refund and said they had spoken to a manager on the store mobile phone.

    I then asked to speak to the manager over the phone, so they contacted them and then handed me the phone, and I asked will I be getting a refund under the 'Sales of goods act' and the manager on the phone said you can have a replacement or a store credit note.

    At this point a store assistant was writing a handwritten store credit note for £399 on a piece of carbon paper, but they could not tell me how long it is valid for.

    As anyone would be, I was dissatisfied with the answer so I asked the question 'will I be getting a refund' once more? The response was the replacement or the credit note, so I asked again because they still did not answer, and I received the same response. I then said 'I feel like a certain interviewer asking a Conservative MP a question'.

    The manager then offered for the Mac Mini to be sent away to be tested 'for a month or two' he said, and then went on to say 'Take it or leave it, but you are not getting a refund'.

    By this time I got frustrated and ended the telephone call, and left the store with the faulty product, and now I am seeking advice.

    So could anyone help on this matter?
    Thank you,
    Derek.
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