Stuck with an unwanted gift or panic purchase? Top tips on returns, refunds and rights
It's that time of year when you're looking at your haul of Christmas gifts or bargains you got in the sales and wondering: What was I thinking?
We're all left with gifts we don't want or won't ever use or silly things we bought in a panic with our vouchers, so this week I'm looking at returns, refunds and rights when it comes to giving back unwanted stuff.
Lavender bubble-bath - again; a not-so-tasteful tea-cosy; even a bestseller you've already read. What can you do with unwanted gifts that may have been kindly chosen, but clearly with someone else in mind?
Even if you know exactly where it was bought, stores are under no obligation to take back unwanted gifts, even with the receipt. Many operate under a cloak of goodwill and are happy to do so, but this is the retailer's choice, not yours.
If a gift receipt was included, this is considered a tacit agreement that the item can be returned, but it may simply be for exchange or a credit note. Again, the shop is completely within its rights to do this, or make you wait until the sale is over.
Share the Love
Re-gifting is often the easier option, so find someone who may like the item and give it to them as a thank-you or for their birthday during the year.
If you're still stuck, consider donating it to a charity shop, like Barnardo's, which makes an Unwanted Gift Appeal every year. It has four stores in Dublin.
If you're feeling lucky, you could try second-selling on eBay or DoneDeal (see panel). You might make some cash back - as long as the original giftee doesn't notice.
No Exchange or Refund During Sale
You got a super bargain of a festive red jumper on the first day of the sale, only to take it home and find it's actually orange, so you take it back to the shop and demand a refund. Right? Wrong.
Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, a shop does not have to take back an item that you bought, in good faith, only to change your mind afterwards.
The only two exceptions are if you bought it online, within the EU, in which case you have 14 days to return it (you'll have to stump up for the postage) for a full refund.
This is because consumer law is more generous in circumstances where you can't examine goods before you buy them. In a shop, however, you do get that opportunity, so it's up to them whether or not they'll allow an exchange or a refund. Many don't during sale times because they're so busy and might not be able to shift it.
If you're offered a credit note instead, count yourself lucky.
The other right of return is if the item is damaged, not as described or not fit for purpose.
It doesn't matter if it was bought at a discounted price, your statutory rights apply in all cases where goods are faulty. The retailer can offer to repair it first, which you should allow, or they must give you a replacement or refund otherwise.
Don't be fobbed off by shops where they tell you to complain to the manufacturer instead; your contract is with the seller directly and it is they who must remedy the problem.
'Up to' 70pc off
You'll see banner headlines in shops about their brilliant sale offers, but you can take most of them with a pinch of salt.
Consumer rights are loose when it comes to advertising sales, and those two little words "up to" mean that even if it's only a sad little rail down the back with rubbish hanging off it, the shop didn't mislead you.
What isn't allowed, however, is bait and switch advertising where the shop says a specific item, like a TV, is available for €200 but when you go in, only the €500 ones are left.
No vouchers during sales
Unfortunately, laws to control vouchers and gift certificates that were due in last year were not enacted.
This means the area remains entirely unlegislated, and shops can run riot with consumer rights.
They can limit voucher use, expiry dates and even charge a hefty fee if you delay using it.
If the shop closes down, you'll go to the back of a long queue in terms of creditors.
Vouchers are very handy, but thousands of euro are wasted every year with them expiring or simply not being used.
If you received a gift voucher, the best advice is to use it - quickly - or sell it on (unless it's personalised, such as a sport or concert ticket).