IT pays to know your consumer rights before you make a purchase, so you do not have to accept items you are not happy with or end up with goods that you cannot return.
As many shoppers hit the high street, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Trading Standards Service (TSS) have urged shoppers to arm themselves with knowledge of their consumer rights when seeking to return goods for an exchange, refund or store credit.
Stephen Thompson, spokesman for Consumerline, said: “Consumers need to remember that they have exactly the same statutory rights for goods bought in a sale as at any time of the year. Signs like ‘No returns on sale goods’ may be illegal because they can mislead consumers about their rights.
“Some sales goods may be reduced because of slight defects, so shoppers need to check items 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.
“It is against the law for shops to pretend that goods have been reduced from a higher price to the sale price. Generally the goods should have been on sale in the store at the higher price before being reduced. Consumers should also be aware that some shops buy in goods specifically to sell during sale time.”
Many shoppers will have bought presents online for their loved ones this Christmas, but have ended up purchasing fake goods by mistake.
All gifts you buy are covered under the Sale of Goods Act, whether they are purchased in store or online.
However, shoppers should be aware that a website that includes ‘.uk’ in its address does not mean the trader is based in the UK. A seller based abroad can often be impossible to trace.
Consumers are advised to look for a full postal address on the website, and if unsure, the European Consumer Centre’s “Ask Howard” has some useful tips to reduce the risk of purchasing from a scam trader. See http://www.uk.theshoppingassistant.com
Offering advice for anyone who received a gift voucher for Christmas, Stephen said: “Make sure you are aware of the expiry date of the gift voucher you received – it should be clearly displayed on the voucher itself or on the trader’s website, instore leaflets and posters.
“Expiry dates vary widely. Some shops give you six months to redeem your voucher, so a gift token you received at Christmas and left in the bottom drawer will be no use by the following July.”
He also warned: “Consumers should be aware that if a shop changes ownership, the new owners may not have purchased the previous one’s liabilities. This means they will not be bound to honour your gift voucher.
“Also, when a shop closes down the voucher becomes a liability the company has not met, so in legal terms you become an ‘unsecured creditor’. If a liquidator is appointed to wind up the company, you must register your claim with this official. Your claim will only be considered after all those of ‘secured creditors’ and it will be very difficult to get the gift voucher honoured.”
Problems with clothes are consistently amongst the top 10 complaints received by Consumerline.
Stephen said: “When you buy clothes – even when they are in a sale – your purchase must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If this is not the case, the items are faulty and you are within your legal rights to ask for a repair, replacement or refund.”
Consumerline has urged shoppers to consider the following:
· Check the shop’s return policy when buying on the high street. If you simply change your mind, you won’t have any legal right to a refund. Many stores do offer additional rights to return goods, but these refund policies vary from store to store. Companies’ reputations depend on giving decent service. You can always ask – and tell them you’re disappointed if they don’t help.
· Check the clothes you’ve bought before using them. If you do find a fault, don’t wear them and contact the trader as soon as possible.
· When buying clothes online you usually have up to seven working days from when your clothes arrive to change your mind and ask for a refund.
· It is not acceptable for party clothes to fall apart after just a couple of outings, for a waterproof coat to leak or for your new winter boots to be scuffed when you get home.
· It is always a good idea to keep the receipt. If items are faulty, you will need some proof of purchase, and a receipt is usually the best proof of when you made your purchase and how much you paid for it.
If you need further advice please contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or logon to the Consumerline at http://www.consumerline.org