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Twelve Consumer Shopping Tips For Christmas

ConsumerWatch / Money Saving Dec 20, 2007 - 01:01 AM GMT

By: Consumer_Direct


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleWith the Christmas shopping season well under way, Consumer Direct has put together 12 top shopping tips for Christmas to help shoppers avoid problems and get the best deal.

1. Presents

When buying presents, always keep receipts just in case there is a problem with the goods and they need to be returned.

Check that presents are in working order as soon as you've bought them rather than wrapping them up immediately, as faulty goods should always be returned as soon as possible after purchase.

There is no legal right to a refund or replacement if an item is the wrong size, colour or style, or it's an unwanted present. The main exceptions are if the seller specifically agreed to a refund or exchange on return of the goods and for certain home shopping purchases (see tip 9), which can normally be cancelled for up to seven working days after delivery.

Check whether you have any additional rights, over and above your legal rights, under the seller's 'goodwill policy'.

2. Goodwill policies

Many shops will have 'goodwill policies' of their own. This means the retailer may provide a 'no quibble' refund, credit note (often valid for 3, 6 or 12 months) or allow you to exchange goods within a specified period, even if they are not faulty.

Check with the shop if it has a goodwill policy before you buy, particularly if you are purchasing the item for someone else. This will help prevent problems if the goods aren't suitable.
Many stores will also offer a gift receipt, which reveals all the details of the purchase other than the price, and can make it easier for the recipient to exchange the gift or seek a refund after Christmas.

3. Sale of Goods Act

The Sale of Goods Act says goods must be:

 - 'of satisfactory quality' which means 'standards that a reasonable person would regard as acceptable', bearing in mind the way they were described, what they cost and any other relevant circumstances
  - 'fit for purpose', which includes any particular purpose mentioned by you to the seller, for example, if you buy a computer game and say to the trader that you want to play it on a particular console, it must be compatible  -
'as described' on the packaging, display sign or by the seller.

4. Faulty and misdescribed goods

If goods are not of satisfactory quality, fit for their purpose or as described, you have a right to return them and get your money back, provided you inform the shop you want to return the goods within a reasonable time. While there is no set time limit, the quicker you report the problem, the easier it will be to obtain a refund.

You are not obliged to accept a credit note, vouchers or the offer of a repair if goods are faulty or misdescribed and they are returned within a reasonable time.

With presents, usually it is the person who bought the goods who should take them back, but in practice it is normally proof of purchase - such as a receipt - that retailers will insist on. While you have the same rights even if you lose the receipt, it is useful evidence of where and when you bought the goods, although credit or debit card receipts could also be used as proof of purchase.

5. Manufacturers

While the law says that it's up to the seller to deal with complaints about defective goods, you may have additional rights under manufacturers' guarantees. You are usually required to send off details such as your name and address and date of purchase to validate the guarantee so if you want this additional protection, make sure you have fulfilled all the necessary requirements.

6. Sales goods

Your rights apply equally to goods bought in a sale. You should ignore any signs which say otherwise as they have no legal effect. Some sales goods may be reduced because of slight defects so check carefully. The seller is not obliged to give you your money back if you are complaining about faults pointed out prior to purchase, for example, on signs or labels.

7. Gift vouchers

Many people don't realise that gift vouchers are only valid for a certain time, typically 12 months from the date of purchase, and they aren't normally exchangeable for cash. You may be offered vouchers when returning faulty goods, but you don't have to accept them, as you are entitled to a cash refund. It is up to you.

8. Second-hand goods

When you buy on the high street you have the same rights, but you must take into account that second-hand will not be of the same quality as brand new. Examine goods carefully before you buy.

You can still claim your money back or the cost of repairs if the goods are faulty, unless the faults are the wear and tear normally to be expected with second-hand goods, were pointed out to you or were obvious when you agreed to buy the goods.

You have fewer rights when you buy privately. In a private sale, the goods must only be 'as described', and don't need to be 'of satisfactory quality' or 'fit for their purpose'.

9. Home shopping

If you buy goods or services from a catalogue, on the internet or by any other form of 'distance selling', you normally have the right to:

 - clear information before placing an order written information about a purchase, including a description of the goods, the price and any ordering or delivery charges
  - a 'cooling off' period during which an order can be cancelled without any reason and a full refund made -  this is typically seven working days from the day after the consumer receives the goods. There are some exceptions, for example, for perishable goods, goods made to order or CDs, DVDs or computer games if you remove the packaging.
  - a full refund if goods are not provided by an agreed date or within 30 days of placing an order if no date was agreed.

10. Credit card protection

If you have bought goods on a credit card and the cash price of the item is more than £100 (and not greater than £30,000) both the supplier and the credit provider have the same liability to you. This means if the supplier goes bust before you receive the goods or the contract is broken, you can make the same claim against the credit provider that you would have brought against the supplier. This also applies to purchases made overseas.

11. Amazing offers

Always be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, because they probably are. Misleading advertisements or sales pitches typically include false promises about what products can do, conceal or leave out important facts or create a false impression in some other way.

Use your common sense, ask questions and ask to see the goods. Also consider whether you'll be able to easily contact the seller if there is a problem. Don't rush into a purchase you might regret.

12. Complaining

Go back to the seller, with proof of purchase, keep calm and be sure of your facts. Explain your problem, what you want done and set a deadline. If you are not satisfied, write a letter of complaint to the company's head office, consumer complaints department or Chairman. Persevere, as you may need to send a follow-up letter. If this fails, contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06



1. Consumer Direct is a telephone and online consumer advice service funded by government and managed by the Office of Fair Trading. It operates in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards Services to offer consumers clear, practical and impartial advice and information.

2. Consumer Direct has around 350 trained advisors in 11 contact centres across England, Wales and Scotland.

3. The information and advice helpline is available on a single national telephone number - 08454 04 05 06 from 0800 – 1830 Monday to Friday, and 0900 – 1300 Saturday, excluding bank holidays and public holidays.

4. A Welsh-speaking Consumer Direct service is available on 08454 04 05 05 . Minicom users should call 08451 28 13 84 .

5. Calls to the Consumer Direct 0845 numbers are charged at no more than four pence per minute from a BT landline. Call charges from other landline providers or mobile phones may vary. Please check the rate with your phone service provider.

6. Northern Ireland has its own service called ConsumerLine (available on 08456 00 62 62) which is similar to Consumer Direct. Visit the ConsumerLine website .

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