What can you do if a retailer refuses to take something back?

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We all buy goods and services on a regular basis, and the vast majority of purchases and transactions go through without a hitch.

However, most consumers find themselves in a dispute with a retailer or service provider at some point, so it is vital to know your basic statutory shopping rights - just in case something goes awry.


The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy things in a sale or with a discount voucher. It also applies to any freebies that come as part of a purchase, for example software bought with a new laptop.

You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though, which is why we've come up with some top tips to help you get your just desserts.
Top tips
Keep your receipts
Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they certainly don't have to. That said, with faulty goods, you simply need to prove purchase. This could be the receipt, but any other legitimate record such as a bank statement should work just as well.

It is also worth noting that, legally speaking, only the person who paid has a right to return faulty goods. If you are buying something as a gift, it is therefore a good idea to note this on the receipt to indicate that you are transferring the right of return to the recipient.

Get on with it
If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them. After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

Another reason to deal with any issues as quickly as possible is that, while it is the retailer's responsibility to prove that goods were not faulty when they sold them within the first six months, this responsibility falls on you after that time.

Know what you want
Before approaching a retailer or service provider with a complaint, you must first decide what your ideal outcome would be.

Do you, for example, want to exchange or repair the existing goods/continue the service if the problem is rectified? Or will you only be happy with a full refund? After all, it's difficult to argue your case if you don't even know what outcome would appease you.

Be calm but firm
Stay cool, calm and rational and you're be more likely to get results than by ranting and raving. Don't allow yourself to be fobbed off with excuses, though.

If, for example, the retailer claims that you need to return the goods to the manufacturer, point out that your agreement is with the shop you bought it from, not the manufacturer; making it their responsibility to deal with your complaint.

Useful phrases to use include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982". This should help to show the retailer or service provider concerned that you mean business.

Use a credit card
Pay for goods worth more than £100 on a credit card rather than by cash or debit card as Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act states that credit card companies are jointly liable with the retailer if something goes wrong.

If you are unable to claim a refund from the retailer, for example because the firm has gone bust, you will therefore have another course of action open to you.

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