Did you receive your gift?
More than half the country’s consumers have already bought Christmas gifts via the internet, according to the Mail on Sunday. So the chances are that not all of them will be happy with what they received and many may still be waiting for presents to be delivered well after the big day. Fortunately, the law is on the consmer’s side. There are special regulations to protect consumers who buy goods from home – by phone, by post or online – in addition to the rights that safeguard shoppers who use the High Street.
One of the biggest differences is the cooling-off period. After you have placed an order, you have the right to change your mind without giving any reason within seven days and to ask for a full refund. So if you get carried away in the New Year sales, all is not lost.
The other major difference, and one that is crucial at this time of year, is the right to have your money refunded if goods are not provided by an agreed date. However, the Office of Fair Trading, which is the country’s chief consumer watchdog, says: ‘It is not enough just to say to the suppliers that it was obvious what you were buying was a Christmas gift. You would have to establish that it was clearly agreed that goods would arrive by Christmas.’ This is fine if you bought over the phone and you can say that you mentioned Christmas delivery, but it may be less simple to show that ‘time was of the essence’ if you used the internet.
However, in the run up to Christmas, sites have been clearly displaying their delivery deadlines. So if they fail to live up to their promise, you can reject the goods and ask for a refund, even if they try to shift the blame to the delivery company. The OFT says: ‘It is no good saying it’s the courier’s fault. If a company cannot supply goods by an agreed date it must inform the customer before the deadline expires. It can try to agree a revised delivery date, but the customer is not obliged to accept it. If the customer says ‘no’ the contract between them becomes null and void and any refunds should be made within 30 days.’
If the delivery was on time, but the goods are faulty you should tell the supplier as soon as possible and keep a record of your complaint. Just because you signed a delivery note when you received the goods doesn’t mean you signed away your right to reject them, says the OFT. And it adds: ‘Allowing the seller to try to put faulty goods right also does not affect your rights. If the repair fails you still have the right to reject the goods. If they are faulty, you should not be charged anything, including the cost of returning goods.’
However, there are some exceptions to the additional regulations. The right to cancel does not apply to unsealed audio or video tapes, unsealed computer software, and contracts for accommodation, transport, catering or leisure services, which are arranged for a specific time or date, for example train, airline or concert tickets, or hotel bookings. Also, if you received the goods from someone else as a gift, you cannot demand that the supplier pays the cost of returning them. Your additional home shopping rights in the UK should also apply in other countries that are members of the European Union, says the OFT, but it adds the regulations may not be exactly the same, so you should check before you shop.
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