Here are your rights if you're looking to return an unwanted Christmas gift

Different rules apply depending on whether the item was bought online or in a shop.
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.16 20 Dec 2021

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Here are your rights if you're...

Here are your rights if you're looking to return an unwanted Christmas gift

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.16 20 Dec 2021

Share this article

It's now less than a week until Christmas, and many people will be out there scrambling for last-minute gifts.

Of course, there's always a possibility that the recipient won't like the present.

Many shops will be willing to give a gift receipt just in case someone wants to return the item for something - but that's by no means the case with every retailer.


So what exactly are your rights when it comes to an unwanted gift?

Consumer expert and The Home Show presenter Sinead Ryan spoke to Lunchtime Live to clear up any confusion people might have.

She said: “It’s always a dilemma - someone gifts you a jumper you can’t stand or a book you’ve already read.

“You’re grateful in one sense that you’ve got a gift, and then you’re thinking ‘how can I get to the shop to return it?’ Then there’s the dilemma of ‘can I return it?

“The only time someone is entitled to a refund is, effectively, if there’s something wrong [with the item].”

In other words: when there's nothing wrong or faulty about the item, there’s no right of return.

Some shops have generous return policies to maintain customer goodwill, but Sinead suggested that’s created a myth that you can return anything.

She explained: “A shop does not have to take a perfectly good item back, for any reason.

“If a shop says ‘we accept returns and will give you a refund, credit note or voucher’ … that’s a contract that the shop is making with you."

There is one exception, however, and that's for goods bought online in either Ireland or the rest of the EU.

Online purchases

Sinead explained that for goods bought online within the bloc "you have a full right of return within 28 days" - 14 days to change your mind after you receive the product, and a further 14 days to return the product.

The reason is that EU law recognises that consumers won’t have had a chance to actually see the item when they buy it online, so it’s an ‘arms-length contract’ with a cooling-off period.

These EU rules don't cover everything: there are restrictions on the like of perishable goods, concert tickets or personalised items (such as a football jersey with a name on it).

Nonetheless, Sinead says people who have recently bought items online from retailers in Ireland or other EU retailers may have until early or mid-January to return it.

The main problem, of course, is that it's the purchaser who has to return the good - something which could lead to an awkward conversation with the gift-giver if you do want to return something they bought for you.

The generous EU rules are another good reason to avoid buying from UK-based retailers.

Customers here do not have the same rights when they buy from the UK as when they buy from the EU - not to mention the potential extra taxes and customs fees you may incur when buying from Britain.

December sales

December and New Year's sales also loom, and many may be wondering what their rights are if an item is heavily discounted.

Sinead says the exact same refund and returns rules apply, no matter how much you pay for the item.

It’s “absolutely OK” for a company to say they won’t accept they won’t accept returns or refunds for unwanted goods bought during a sale.

However, they also legally need to respect a customer’s statutory rights if the item in question turns out to be faulty.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: John Davidson Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

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