Tips for returning unwanted Christmas gifts
Written on 26 December 2015
Were some of your presents a bit of a flop this year? Wondering whether you might be able to return them? Here’s the low-down on your rights.
Shops are not legally required to give refunds for unwanted items (except for most items bought online, by phone or mail order – see below). However, most high-street retailers operate some kind of returns policy and many of the big names extend their dates for returns over the Christmas period.
For example, Marks & Spencer allows returns up to 16 January for items bought after 14 September (its usual 35 day returns period applies for anything bought after 13 December) while Debenhams says gifts can be exchanged in store up until 31 January. Bear in mind though that retailers usually have a list of non-returnable items, such as earrings, food and made-to-measure items, which are excluded from their returns policy.
What you’ll get under the returns policy varies from store to store and depends on whether you have a receipt or not.
I’ve got a gift receipt
Check to see if the person who gave you the gift included a gift receipt. If they did, this will avoid the embarrassment of having to ask them for the receipt.
Take the item back to the store in its original packaging and in a saleable condition within the time allowed for returns. You’re most likely to be offered an exchange or a refund on to a gift card.
I’ve got the original receipt
Most retailers offer a full refund or exchange if you have a receipt and you return the item in its original packaging and in a saleable condition.
If the person who bought the gift paid in cash, any refund can be paid directly to you. However, if they used their debit or credit card, any refund will normally only be made to their card. So you may need to bite the bullet and ask them to return the item for you.
I don’t have a receipt
The situation is a bit trickier if you can’t bring yourself to ask the person who bought the gift for you for the receipt. Some shops insist on proof of purchase and won’t offer you anything without it. Others may offer an exchange or credit note but these could be restricted to the value of the last-known selling price which could be pretty low if the item has gone into the sales.
If you can’t return the item, you could consider re-selling it on an auction site such as eBay, Gumtree or Preloved or simply by putting an ad in your local paper. Alternatively, you could re-gift it to someone who will appreciate it (just make a note of who gave it to you so you don’t accidentally give it back to the same person).
The present was bought online
If you think the gift was bought online, by phone or mail-order, it’s worth tactfully checking with the person who gave you the present. That’s because if it was, they can cancel the order for any reason within 14 days of receiving it and get a full refund.
Some retailers extend this minimum period. For example, Amazon offers a 30-day return period if the product is complete and returned in an unused and undamaged condition.
There are some items which are excluded from this rule. Our guide to your shopping rights has more detail.
My present doesn’t work
If your present breaks or never worked in the first place, check out the new Consumer Rights Act which amongst other things gives the purchaser the right to return the item within 30 days and get a full refund. Our guide to your shopping rights explains all you need to know.