Published On: Thu, Jul 4th, 2024
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Martin Lewis warning over law on returning items you have bought | Personal Finance | Finance

Martin Lewis wearing a suit

Martin Lewis has issued his latest shopping advice (Image: Getty)

Martin Lewis has issued a stark warning to shoppers about their rights when returning items. The Money Saving Expert explained that there is a significant difference between your consumer rights when returning items bought in-store and online.

He also pointed out that the reason for wanting to return an item can greatly impact the outcome of any dispute with the retailer.

When it comes to returning items purchased in-store, Martin stated: “If you buy items in store, you have absolutely no right of return whatsoever. It’s a common confusion, it does not exist – you have no legal right to return items unless they’re faulty.”

He clarified that this applies to change of mind returns, such as if you’ve found the item cheaper elsewhere.

The only exception, he noted, is if the store has a published returns policy that allows for change-of-mind returns. In this case, the policy would become part of your contract at the point of purchase, and you could return the item under contract law.

However, he stressed that statutory consumer rights only allow for the return of shop-bought goods if they are faulty.

Martin has previously shared a handy reminder to help determine if an item is faulty: ‘sad farts’, which stands for Satisfactory quality, As Described, Fit for purpose and, last, a Reasonable length of Time.

If the item doesn’t meet these criteria and is therefore faulty, Martin advises: “Take them back within a month, you get a full refund. After a month, well it’s repair, partial refund or replacement that you tend to be looking at. How you prove it’s faulty is a trickier measure.”

When it comes to returning items bought online, Martin addressed several frequently asked questions. This includes a retailer’s right to refuse returns and where you stand if you want to return clothing because it’s the wrong size.

Can a retailer refuse online returns?

Martin clarified: “Can they say no to online returns? – no they cannot, absolutely not.”

“Under the consumer contract regulations 2013 that overtook the distant selling regulations, if you buy an item online you have an absolute right to change your mind and to send it back unless it is personalised or perishable – so short-lived fruit or flowers you can’t send back. But the vast majority of things, you have an absolute right to send things back.”

If you buy items in store, you have absolutely no right of return whatsoever. It’s a common confusion, it does not exist you have no legal right to return items unless they’re faulty.

“You have up to 14 days to notify them you’re sending things back and up to 14 days after you’ve notified them to actually send it back, so a maximum 28 days, although it isn’t actually 28 days because let’s say you notify them after 2 days you only still have 14 days after that point in which to send it back.

“So think carefully when you notify them, when you’re actually going to send it back to make sure you have enough time. But the clear rule: they cannot say ‘no’ to allowing you to return items bought online.”

Can the retailer make customers pay for returns?

Martin added: “Can they make the customer pay for returns? Yes they can.

“So what the law states, is when you buy an item online and you return it under the consumer contract regulations, it is different if items are faulty because then it becomes under the consumer rights act for faulty goods…then they have to give you back the money you paid for the item, obviously.

“They have to give you back the minimum cost of delivery to you. So just to explain that, let’s say the delivery cost was £2 but you paid an extra £3 to get it more quickly, you would only get the £2 back because it’s the minimum cost of delivery.

“So if it was free delivery they were offering but you paid extra to speed it up, you wouldn’t get any cost of delivery to you back. But stores can say, if you’re buying online, you the customer has to pay to return the items.”

Martin Lewis has issued a warning to online shoppers about the potential pitfalls of returning items. He pointed out that while some companies might grow weary of customers who purchase clothes to try on or wear once before returning them for free, it is “absolutely legal” for these firms to impose return charges.

Are you at risk of being blacklisted by retailers for excessive returns?

The Money Saving Expert founder explained: “Can they ban customers for doing too many returns? Yes, as long as you are not discriminating against a protected characteristic…then it is perfectly legitimate for a firm to say ‘we don’t want to serve you as customer’ and that if the reasons they’re doing that is because you’ve done too many returns, then as far as I’m aware…I don’t believe there is a rule that stops them banning you.”

However, Martin also highlighted that the law isn’t set in stone until it’s challenged in court. He remarked that there could be a case where a customer contests such a ban and a judge sides with them.

But for now, he confirmed: “But as far as I’m aware at the moment they can ban customers from doing too many returns.”

What happens if your new outfit doesn’t fit quite right?

Martin emphasised that the issue of returning a clothing item due to incorrect sizing often stems from the item not matching its description, thus making it faulty. He elaborated: “The crucial bit here is ‘as described’ and I think where you get into a fine point, is let’s imagine you buy an item of clothing that’s described as ‘size large’, you get it home, it sort of is a size large, but it’s not quite right for you, it’s either a little too big or too small or it goes in too much at the waist..

“Whatever it is then I think, no that would not count as faulty which is why when you buy stuff in-store, when you don’t have a right to return, you should always try it on or at least check the returns policy as you may be shocked they don’t allow you to put it back afterwards.”

However, Martin did highlight a unique circumstance where one could argue that a clothing item’s size is inaccurate. He continued: “However if you were to buy an item that was labelled large and it’s pretty clearly a medium or a small and there’s absolutely no way that would be a large item or equally it’s an extra large or an XXL then I think you would potentially have an argument that it wasn’t as described.”

“It would be quite a tough one to prove because of course what is a small, medium, or large? There is no actual definition, it would be based on what is seen as traditional or custom…of course it varies in different countries, so if you were buying a large from Japan, it may not well be the same size as a large from the United States because people sizes are different.”

“But there is certainly a potential argument that if clothes are effectively mislabeled by size…in that case you could argue it was faulty, it’s a tough one but if you are in that position, well I would probably get in touch with Citizens Advice consumer helpline which is the first place you go when you have a consumer rights dispute.”

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