How to handle your unwanted prezzies

Know your rights and you could still get the gift you want, even if it wasn't under the tree on Christmas morning
Know your rights and you could still get the gift you want, even if it wasn't under the tree on Christmas morning
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David Curwen, centre, hugs his mother with whom he wa sreunited. Completing the group is his brother Keith

THIS WEEK IN 1975: Reunited after 30 years – but only thanks to a kind stranger

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There’s nothing better than seeing the smile on a loved one’s face when you present them with the perfect Christmas gift.

But try as we might, it’s impossible to hit the bullseye 100 per cent of the time.

Whether it’s gloves that are just ever-so-slightly the wrong shade of green, classic DVDs they already own, or gadgets that are missing essential parts, there are a wide range of reasons to return prezzies.

But believe it or not, High Street shops don’t have to accept returns unless an item is faulty, not as described or is unfit for purpose.

So you could be facing an uphill struggle.

The good news is that most stores choose to provide a goodwill returns policy, offering an exchange or refund for certain things, including Christmas presents.

And if your gift was bought online, over the phone, or by mail order you may even have extra rights.

With a little help from Which? magazine, Streetwise has compiled a list of the best advice for returning your unwanted goods.

· Returns policies

Shops don’t have to have a returns policy, but if they have one they must stick to it.

These are usually displayed on receipts, on signs in-store and online. You can also ring the shop’s customer services line to find out details.

They may contain a time limit for returning non-faulty products – such as 28 or 90 days – but these are often extended around Christmas.

· Restrictions

Many music, DVD and computer software retailers refuse to change or refund products that are no longer sealed.

You also won’t usually be able to return an item if it was made to order or personalised, or if it is perishable. And some items – such as earrings, make-up and some items of clothing – are excluded for hygiene reasons even if you’ve not used them.

· It’s still worth asking

Shop returns policies vary, but even if the shop’s policy appears to rule out a return or refund, it may be worth trying to take it back anyway, as shop managers can often use their discretion.

· Always keep your receipt.

Customers still have the legal right to reject products if they’re faulty, even without a receipt, but the store might argue that they don’t know they were bought from that store.

Shops also don’t strictly have to honour their returns policies if you didn’t originally buy it, even if you have a receipt. But many will let you return presents as a goodwill gesture.

· Exchange, credit or refund?

The store doesn’t have to give you a cash refund if you don’t have the receipt, but they may offer you a credit note or exchange instead.

Some shops will also only refund money the way it was paid.

· Returning sale items

You should be able to get a refund for sale items in most major stores, but they do have the right to change their returns policies as long as customers are notified before they buy. If the price of the item has changed since it was bought and you do not have proof of purchase, you’ll most likely be offered a refund of the most recent price.

· Gifts not bought in person

If the product was bought online, by post or by telephone, the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (DSR) give you a cooling-off period of seven working days from the day after you received the goods in which you can cancel for any reason.

Items that can’t be returned under the DSRs include CDs, DVDs or software if you’ve broken the seal, perishable items and personalised goods.

· Know your rights

Remember no returns policy can take away your legal rights under the Sale of Goods Act. If your goods are faulty, not as described, or not fit for purpose, you are entitled to a refund no matter what the shop’s policy. Although if you keep the item for too long you might have to accept a repair or replacement instead.

· Keep the original packaging

If you don’t like a gift you’ve received, don’t throw away the packaging or take the labels off. The seller may suggest the goods have been used and refuse to take them back.

· Pay by credit card for extra protection

If the gift cost over £100 and not more than £30,000, pay on your credit card – your card company will be jointly responsible for gifts that don’t arrive or are problematic.