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02nd January 2019

Have your receipts in order this Christmas

The Consumer Councils top tips on returning unwanted gifts


Christmas may have been the season for giving, but some consumers may have received gifts that they wish to return.

Mark Crawford, Interim Head of Consumer Empowerment and Protection at The Consumer Council, said “Sometimes we are given a present, which we already have, isn’t suitable or simply won’t use and we are left wondering what to do. We would encourage consumers to follow our top tips on returning gifts.”

The Consumer Councils Top Tips

  • Check the retailer’s refund policy. By law, a retailer doesn’t have to do anything at all if there’s nothing wrong with the item other than that you don’t want it, but many stores will offer gestures of goodwill in terms of an exchange or credit note.
  • Online orders. Most online orders are subject to a 14 day cooling-off period where you can change your mind and get a full refund but some exceptions apply.
  • The retailer must refund the total price of the goods, including the cost of delivery, but they only have to reimburse the cheapest delivery option regardless of whether you chose a more expensive option such as next day delivery.
  • Generally you must pay the cost of returning the goods, unless the trader has failed to make this clear in the information they provided prior to you completing the order. Goods should be returned within 14 days of notifying the trader of your decision and you must pay the cost of returning the goods.
  • Proof of purchase. Have your receipt or gift receipt at hand for proof of purchase. If the item was bought by card, then a bank statement will also act as proof of purchase. If you haven’t been given a gift receipt the cardholder will need to be present to enable the refund to go back onto their card.
  • Be aware that not all goods can be returned. For example DVDs and games if the seal has been broken or goods that have been personalised e.g. engraved with your name or perishable items like a food hamper.
  • Use your consumer rights. If you receive a gift that is unsatisfactory or faulty, contact the person who gave you the gift as they have 30 days to reject the item and return for a refund. If a fault appears after 30 days, you still have consumer rights and have up to six years to complain if it’s reasonable to expect the item to last that long.
  • Don’t remove packaging. If you’re at all unsure about a present you’ve been given, don’t throw away the packaging or remove labels because it may look as if you’ve used the item.

The Consumer Council has produced handy information guides including ‘Your Guide to Shopping Safely Online’, ‘Safer Ways to Pay’ and ‘Returning Gifts Factsheet’. These can downloaded at or to request a free copy call 0800 121 6022 or email