We've splashed out over £6 billion shopping online in the run up to Christmas. When it works, online shopping can be a quick, easy and stress free option, compared with the alternative of battling with the high street crowds on a Saturday morning.
But chuck a whole heap of snow into that pre-Christmas mix and even the most organised of us may have faced a last minute dash to the shops to try and make sure our kids weren't disappointed with a 'no show' on the present front come Christmas Day.
And if you did trudge out to the high street; chances are it means an even bigger dent in your bank balance paying twice over for the same presents! When the turkey carcass is fit for the bin; those long awaited deliveries will turn up and you've got a whole heap of duplicate presents lying around.
So what are your rights and can you get your money back?
Can I get my money back?
Buying online, (or by mail order, phone or from TV shopping channels), means you've got seven days to return unwanted items as part of the 'Distance Selling Regulations'. Unlike buying from the high street, where shops don't have to give you a refund simply because you've changed your mind; online shops must do this because you don't get the chance to examine what you buy before you pay for it.
So you can package up those duplicate presents and send them back for a refund. But do check the company's 'returns' policy first; as the rules on how items must be sent back differ according to who you buy from. With some you'll get a 'freepost' option; while others may insist on sending a courier. Do make sure you get some form of proof of postage from the Post Office or a receipt from the courier company to show when the item was returned; especially important in case it's delayed on its 'return' trip. But providing items are unopened and in their original packaging you should get a full refund along with any postage costs.
Can I claim compensation for the extra cost and hassle?
So if replacing those very same presents you'd ordered online just a week earlier meant you had to pay more on the high street; or your child's 'must have' toy was long since sold out and you had tears and tantrums come Christmas Day what can you do?
As you may expect there's usually ways retailers can avoid having to cough up on this one. Unless your delivery was 'guaranteed' by Christmas there's not a lot you can do when it comes to claiming for any extra costs you're incurred.
And even if you've got that 'guarantee' in writing; say a confirmation email from the company promising to deliver by Christmas; chances are somewhere in the small print it will say they can't be responsible for any 'unforseen' circumstances, which will of course include the bad weather.
And when they finally turn up, what happens if your kids' new toys are faulty, broken or damaged in the post? Whether you buy online or from the high street; when it comes to faulty goods you can get a refund, replacement or repair, providing you've got some form of 'proof of purchase'. This doesn't have to be the original till receipt; it could be a credit card or bank statement; basically just some proof of how much you paid and when and where you bought the item. But do return items as quickly as possible as the longer you leave it the harder it can be to prove an item is faulty rather than having broken due to being played with too much!
• £6.4 billion spent Christmas shopping online according to the Department for Business.