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Your rights and options when it comes to returning unwanted Christmas gifts


Most people believe their consumer rights are somehow diminished if they buy something at a discount price - this is not so.

Most people believe their consumer rights are somehow diminished if they buy something at a discount price - this is not so.

Most people believe their consumer rights are somehow diminished if they buy something at a discount price - this is not so.

The wrapping's in the bin; the turkey's on its last legs and the batteries are running out - yours and the toys'.

Never fear - there's all the fun of the next couple of weeks to look forward to... the sales!

Chances are most of us will buy at least something during sale time. Many, however, will end up regretting their purchases, or those Christmas presents that didn't quite hit the mark, and will try to make a sneaky return. This week, we're looking at your rights, options and post-Christmas return blues.


Stores don't have to accept any item back unless they have a specific policy on returns or exchanges. You can, and should, offer it back anyway. If you received a gift receipt with it, this is an acknowledgement by the shop they'll allow you store credit. If not, you're relying on their goodwill. If the item is still saleable, they may offer you the current price as credit, but for personalised Christmassy items, probably not.


Most people believe their consumer rights are somehow diminished if they buy something at a discount price - this is not so. You have identical rights to demand a replacement, refund or repair of any item that isn't fit for purpose, damaged or not as described. Unless it was specifically marked "as seen", or "damaged stock" you can return it for the full price paid, even if it's now discounted for the sales. A shop might want to offer you a repair first and that's fine.

What they can't do is pawn you off to the manufacturer. Your contract is with them and it is their responsibility to fix the problem.

The legislation covering this is the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980, backed up by EU Directive 99/44.

Politely insist on a refund; write in, enclosing proof of purchase (this, by the way, does not have to be a receipt - a bank statement showing the transaction is fine).

If you're still not happy, tell them you're going to sue in the Small Claims Court. It costs just €25 and you don't need a solicitor - it can award up to €2,000 and often the threat of it is enough to re-focus the shop's mind.

Online purchases

If you bought on an EU website, you have the right to return goods within a 14-day cooling off period, simply for change of mind. The exceptions include buying off internet auction sites, like eBay or DoneDeal, transport and accommodation bookings and perishable or personalised products.

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Some readers have told me that certain UK retailers are refusing returns from Ireland, citing the Brexit vote, but for the moment, they're still firmly in the EU, with all the laws that pertain, so ignore them and insist! The EU Directive is 2011/83/EU.


When you enter a contract with an online trader, you have the right to receive the product within 30 days. If not, you can either have it delivered within another agreed time frame or cancel the contract and get a refund, including delivery costs, particularly if you informed them it was needed by Christmas and they agreed this.

If they refuse and you paid by credit or debit card, contact your bank and instigate the Chargeback facility - the bank can recover the monies paid for you.


Check the following on your gift voucher:

l What's the expiry date? There shouldn't be one, but often there is.

l If it's a shopping-centre gift card, use it within one year. Most charge an 'inactive balance fee' of €3 per month after that, wiping the value off the card. It's outrageous, but legal.

l If it's for a smaller store, bear in mind some businesses fail and if the shop closes down, your chances of getting your voucher redeemed are very low. You don't need any more excuses - buy yourself something nice!

Case Study

It's safe to say Maggie O'Callaghan probably enjoys the Christmas sales more than Christmas itself.

"I'm itching to get into town," she says. "I'm very impromptu, I'll go for something I like, usually classic pieces, so Brown Thomas or Arnotts. I don't go hunting prior to the sales, but these pieces will keep. I have a John Rocha leather waistcoat I bought 30 years ago - it's still on trend. And I'll have a nice drink afterwards, of course!"

You'd think Maggie would have enough of clothes, given she owns a boutique herself - Soul Woman in Glasthule, Co Dublin - but she can't help it.

It doesn't always go smoothly however.

"I once bought a Furla bag with a bad zip and the store was very obliging, offering a full refund or exchange," she recalls.

"In contrast, years ago I returned a pair of jeans to a well known store with a genuine fault - a tear along the seam. They didn't believe I had purchased them in that state and refused to do anything. It left a really bad feeling and I have never bought anything there since."

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