When Can I Return Something I've Bought In Store On The High Street?

Know your rights – and when to ask for a refund
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If you’ve ever been refused a refund when you felt you should have been entitled to one, you’ll know how frustrating it can feel. So it can help to know what your rights are – and what the shop’s rights are – when it comes to returns, refunds and exchanges.

Does a shop have to give me a refund if I ask for one?

Yes and no. According to the government website, a shop only has to give you your money back in specific circumstances under the Consumer Rights Act 2015: when a product or service you bought is faulty, not as described, or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to – and you’ve asked for a refund within 30 days. You aren’t entitled to a refund just because you changed your mind.

In reality, however, most retailers offer customers a far better deal, giving you more than consumers are entitled to under the law.

Most shops will allow you to refund or exchange items if you don’t like them, they don’t fit, or you’ve changed your mind within 28 days. Some offer an even longer returns period.

It’s worth bearing in mind that when it comes to perishable goods like food and flowers, the timeframe for your right to a refund is determined by the length of time you’d reasonably expect them to last. (You obviously wouldn’t expect a pint of milk to still be fine to drink within 30 days, for example.)

What happens if I want to return something after 30 days?

After 30 days it gets a little more complicated. You will continue to have some rights if the item is faulty, though you won’t be entitled to a refund.

If you discover a fault up to six months after buying a product, then the retailer will need to prove that the fault wasn’t there when you bought it and should offer you a repair or replacement, according to the consumer group Which?.

After six months your rights will reduce - as the onus will be on you to prove the fault wasn’t there at the time of sale, rather than on the retailer.

What about if it’s a sale item or I don’t have a receipt?

If you don’t have a receipt but the item is faulty, under law you can still return it – so long as you can offer proof of purchase (such as a bank statement).

But if the item isn’t faulty, the retailer has no obligation to pay you back without a receipt. The good news is that most high street retailers offer a more generous returns policy and will offer exchanges or credit notes if you don’t have a receipt.

When it comes to sale items the same rules from the Consumer Rights Act apply. You can return something if it’s faulty – but the retailer doesn’t have to let you return it just because you’ve changed your mind. It’s common for retailers to restrict their own timeframe for returns for sale items, too - from 28 to 14 days.