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Savvy Christmas Shopping Tips

How to get it right first time (and what to do if something goes wrong).

‘Tis the season and with Christmas shopping at the forefront of our minds, Black Friday sales behind us and the traditional January bargain-hunt on the horizon; many are looking to find a good deal in-store or online whilst spreading some cheer. But what should you be looking out for when making crimbo purchases or do if things go wrong...?

Festive Shopping Tips

Whatever goods and services shoppers are looking to bag this (most wonderful time of the) year, the following should be at the forefront of their minds.

Will it be delivered on time?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods should be delivered within 30 days of the order being placed, unless agreed otherwise. This can sometimes be in the terms and conditions or specified on the order documentation. Often with large items of furniture otherwise known as ‘big ticket’ items, there can be a longer lead-time because the item is being made to fulfil an order, or parts may be shipped from abroad. Particularly at the moment, it’s very important for consumers to check these lead-times and ask the retailer for details of anything that might cause a delay.

When buying in a shop, customers should clarify that items being purchased are covered by any festive delivery guarantees and keep a record of the answer.

Further, under consumer law, customers can specify that delivery by a certain date is essential. If the retailer fails to meet that date, the consumer can treat that as a cancellation of the contract. If an essential date is specified (or apparent from the circumstances), it’s important to make sure that the date is recorded.

Is it really a bargain?

There are strict rules that retailers need to stick to when advertising reductions in a sale. This is to ensure that you can be confident that the reduction is a genuine one. You would not be entitled to the difference if items are further reduced after you have made your purchase, so make sure you are happy with the current price that you are committing to pay and don’t feel pressurised by slogan such as “only 2 left” or “3 other customers are looking at this item”.

What are my rights when goods are reduced in a sale?

Where goods are bought in a sale at a reduced price, consumers still have access to their consumer rights. If you bought the goods in a shop and they are faulty, they can be returned for a full refund (within the first 30 days). After that, if goods cannot, after one attempt, be successfully repaired or replaced, a price reduction or final right to reject would be the legal remedy. This means that you might get a sum of money to keep them as they are, or you could return them and get your money back (this might be a full or a part refund depending how long you have had them for before you noticed the issue).

The amount of the refund would be calculated by reference to the price paid, not the original non-reduced price of the goods.

It’s also worth noting that if you were told the reason for the price reduction, (such as damage), you cannot return them based solely on that issue.

What about damaged goods?

Consumer remedies do cover goods which are damaged. In a shop you might be able to negotiate a price reduction for these, but ultimately it is up to a consumer whether to buy them or not.

Where goods identified as damaged on delivery, consumers have remedies. However, where these have been opened by the original recipient, re-wrapped and potentially moved to a different location, it will be hard to prove that the goods were damaged upon delivery or when purchased so when giving gifts this Christmas, it is important that you check them over before you wrap them, so that you can deal with any issues direct with the retailer to avoid disappointment on the big day.

Can I return personalised goods?

Where goods are personalised, for example made using photographs which are supplied to the retailer or by adding your name or some specific text, these are non-returnable (unless they are faulty, not as described or not fit for purpose). This is regardless of whether the products were bought in store or ordered online. This is because they are made specifically for you and cannot reasonably be re-sold.

What if I can’t find the receipt and need to return something?

You will need proof of purchase in order to return goods; without this your refund could be refused or might be based on the current selling price, which could be substantially less in the January sales. You may be offered store credit, which might be a reasonable alternative if the goods are simply unwanted.

Judith Turner, Deputy Chief Ombudsman, Dispute Resolution Ombudsman said, “We’re in the midst of the busy holiday period, however consumers can rest assured that if they check before shopping that a retailer is a member of an alternative dispute resolution body such as a government approved Ombudsman, they will have an added layer of protection when making purchases.

“If things should go wrong, and they can’t get any joy out of the retailer, businesses that subscribe to the Ombudsman follow a code of practice which means that they are committed to being responsible retailers and looking after your consumer rights, ultimately leading to more confident shopping when making those festive purchases.”

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