After more than a year of lockdowns and lock-ins, this Black Friday is back with less than a bang. Supply is delayed, stock is limited and things still don’t feel right on the High Street or online. Dealing with returns is the last thing on your mind, but here’s a helpful rundown ahead of Friday’s ‘shop-fest’!

So, what are your consumer rights when shopping goes wrong?

Consumer Rights When It’s Faulty:

All items sold to a consumer must:

· be “fit for purpose”, do what they are supposed to and be of the quality expected

· fit the description you provided of them or the images you posted; and

· be of “satisfactory quality”

If a customer claims their purchase doesn’t meet these standards, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, they have 30 days to return the items and get a full refund. For faulty items returned after 30 days, as a retailer you only need only repair or replace them. Different rules apply to products where the defect only becomes apparent long after you bought the product.

Be Clear about Terms & Returns:

Your terms and conditions must be fair. For example you charge an admin fee to receive or process returns, you must be upfront about this in your terms. You must provide a returns & and refunds policy. If you offer customers a promotion or incentive to buy the terms of that promotion are deemed included in the sale contract (e.g. an extended warranty must be given if offered as part of a promo package).

You are obliged to provide a ‘returns form’ for shoppers buying online and it’s sensible to provide your returns policy before a customer buys (at the till or on a clickable link).

I Don’t Want It: The Customers’ Rights to Cancel:

Customers have a right to cancel online purchases within 14 calendar days. To do so they have to send you a cancellation notice (no reason is required). By law, you must provide customers with a cancellation form, but the customer does not have to use that to cancel and order.

If you have sent the goods out and the customer has received them, the cancellation period runs from the date of receipt of delivery by the customer. For cancelled items, the customer generally pay the costs of return unless you offer ‘free returns’ at point of sale.

Remember if you don’t provide information about the ‘right to cancel’, the cancellation period will be extended by up to a year, so it is better to get it right first time!

Giving Refunds:

Refunds must be made to the card or account the purchase payment was made from within 14 days of cancellation of the service or receipt of the goods by you back from the customer.

Refunds must include the standard delivery charge made. It sometimes happens that the customer has clearly used or worn the goods and then returned them. If that happens, you can deduct a reasonable amount from the refund to cover usage – but beware of then reselling those ‘used’ goods unwittingly to other customers as ‘new’.

If payment was made by voucher, you can decide whether to refund in vouchers or in cash; if you choose to refund a voucher back onto a payment card, it should be made back on to the card used to pay for the voucher.

What Can I Refuse to Return & Refund?

You have a right to refuse to accept cancellation or a return (unless the items are faulty or ‘unfit’) where you sold the customer items such as:

· Bespoke and personalised items; anything made to the cusomer’s specification, like a monogrammed case or glass or a made to order item of clothing. This doesn’t apply to ‘personalised’ stock items such as a mug with a name or letter on – as these are not considered personalised or bespoke.

· Hygiene products; the risk of tampering or contamination is too high

· Perishable items like food; because they ‘go off’ too quickly to be returned

· Digital downloads and streamed services

Do I Need a Complaints Procedure?

You know the customer isn’t always right, but a complaints procedure can help everyone to know where they stand.

If a customer complains on social media, respond calmly, deal with it promptly and, most importantly, politely! There is no point getting into a spat with someone who wants to air their views about your product or service. Deal with the product or service first and then, when that’s done you can point out if the review was factually incorrect. If the complaint is personal, or goes beyond what you might consider ‘normal’ (it does sometimes happen), is persistent above what is required, or if it’s part of the hideous trend of flaming or trolling, you can always check with us if you need to block the sender or report them.

Further information can be found on the WHICH? website. 

For help with consumer law, your rights as a retailer and terms and conditions, contact j.frears@lionsheadlaw.co.uk