Sinead Ryan: Returning unwanted gifts can prove harder than expected
There you are, with a big smile, surrounded by piles of lovely new things you got for Christmas... or scratching your head, wondering if Santa has gone a bit deaf.
Most of us end up with at least some gifts that we don't want. While you furiously wrack your brains to see who you can re-gift it to, you're probably also wondering if you can return it and get something you actually do like. The gifter may have put a lot of thought and effort into the present, or none at all and plucked it off the nearest shelf, but you're left with a dilemma all the same.
Do you don that horrible scarf in fluorescent green, or to bathe in granny-scented bubble bath, or chance your arm with the shop and go for a refund?
Consumer rights are very strong when it comes to returns and refunds on defective or damaged items, but unfortunately less so when it's because you simply don't like it.
In fact, retailers are under no obligation to take a gift back at all, but many choose, for goodwill reasons, to do so, or at least offer a credit note. However, you cannot demand this, and they are well within their rights to refuse.
Some retailers are so nice about refunds that it often leads consumers to believe they have a right of return, but this isn't so. The only exception is if the item is bought online, within the EU, and can be returned within 14 days of purchase. For many Christmas gifts, that's simply not an option.
Customer return rights come under the 'Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980' and other EU legislation. If an item is not as described, is damaged or doesn't do what it's supposed to, you have a right to take it back, with proof of purchase (which does not have to be a receipt - evidence on your bank statement is fine), and you will be offered a repair, replacement or refund.
If you simply don't like it, or will never use it, the reality is that no retailer needs to honour that.
The tricky thing, of course, is when it's a gift. If the person who gave it to you popped in a 'gift receipt', then this is tacit agreement that the shop will take it back, which is great. If not, then you'll have to come clean, and worse, they'll have to return to the shop with you to try to wrangle a refund.
It's all a bit embarrassing, but most people would want to know the gifts they give are at least appreciated, and if not, then be happy to get you something you'd really like, as long as the shop will pony up.
Perhaps for most of us, the safer option is to find someone who really would like it, or, failing that, the local charity shop.