Knowing where you stand this Christmas

Using a credit card when buying gifts costing more than �100 can give you additional protection
Using a credit card when buying gifts costing more than �100 can give you additional protection

LETTER OF THE DAY: Housing - more needs to be done

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You’ve got to hand it to the retail trade. They’ve perfected the art of making the yuletide pay.

More cash is splashed over the festive season than in the first nine months of the year. So the chances are that knowing where you stand with faulty or unwanted Christmas presents comes right at the top of your priority list.


If your Christmas present doesn’t work straight out of the box you have very specific rights. Legally, anything you buy should:

· Fit the description - goods have to be as described.

· Be of satisfactory quality - you have the right for goods you buy to be safe, work properly and be free from defects.

· Fit for purpose - anything that a retailer sells you must be capable of doing what it says on the box.

If not the retailer is legally obliged to fix the problem. You can choose a repair, replacement, a full or partial refund, or compensation. The goods must have been faulty at the time you bought them or very soon after. You’ve only got about three weeks max to find out and return them to the shop if you want to insist on a full refund.


Got it, but didn’t really want it? Here’s what to do with that Christmas present you could really do without.

The one thing the law doesn’t give you any rights to is a change of heart. If there is nothing wrong with the gift, you can’t LEGALLY take it back - no matter how badly the present disappoints you. That said, the vast majority of large stores and websites offer a returns policy of some sort, almost always linked to cover notes or a replacement for the item you bring back. Many top shops like Marks and Spencer or John Lewis will offer a no-quibble refund.

If shops do advertise a returns policy it will be legally binding, however, as will a verbal assurance from the shop. In which case, make a point of at least remembering the name of the sales assistant you speak to.

If you are returning an item under a returns policy, it helps if you play the game and minimise any problems with the retailer.

· Make sure the product goes back in its original condition. This means not taking off price tags and labels, or removing the wrapping off CDs and similar items.

· Try to keep and show your receipt. Most shops won’t exchange without one. If you’re buying for family, always hand over the receipt to another family member (not the one you’re giving the present to), in case they need to do a swap.

· Remember if a shop operates a returns policy there may be a time limit on when you can take goods back. But in practice if you turn up in March with the socks you were given last December, the shop manager concerned may not feel particularly inclined to help you.


Buying over the internet or by phone gives you significant extra rights. Online websites are required by law to spell them out, but don’t be surprised if you find the small print tucked away on some obscure part of the site.

If you change your mind about anything you buy, as long as you return the goods within seven days you can claim a full refund. Beware though. Personal type goods, perishables, and computer software are excluded. And it’s down to the seller whether you’ll have to pay the return postage or delivery cost. Check before you buy to avoid a nasty surprise.


Buying a gift costing more than £100? Then use a credit card. You can claim for defective products from the card issuer if the store starts to put up barriers to a refund.