Returning unwanted Christmas gifts: Your rights explained

We’ve all been there. Opening a Christmas gift from a well-meaning friend or relative, only to find it’s either too big, too small, or just not to your taste at all.

The obvious solution? A sneaky return so you can either swap it, or get the money back. But what are the rules around returning gifts? And how do these rules change if you didn’t purchase it yourself?

If you’re returning a gift you received

The most obvious and easy way to receive a refund, or for a gift to be returned, is to get the original purchaser to take the item back. This is because most places will require a proof of purchase before accepting a return – or even to allow an exchange. Also, there is no legal obligation for them to allow a refund from anyone other than the original buyer. 

However, this can be awkward if you do not feel able to ask the person who bought you the gift to return it. If this is the case, then these are the options available to you. 

Gift receipts are the best option for you, if your gifter has thought to provide one. A gift receipt shows proof of purchase but leaves out the amount spent. It can be used to return goods given as a gift, even if the price isn’t shown on the receipt. A gift receipt shows proof of purchase so it’s a great idea to include one, when buying someone a gift (if the retailer offers one). 

However, a gift receipt normally only allows you to make an exchange for another item, or receive a credit note, rather than getting the money back directly. Also, if the gift was bought on a card, any refund will often go back to the card used – which means you may still end up having to confess to the original gift giver. 

With most items, the standard return time is within 30 days of purchase if you wish to get the money back. However, the legal amount of time required to give a customer to change their mind is only 14 days. Around Christmas, shops tend to extend the time allowed to make a return, as they understand people purchasing gifts may not always give them within the usual limit. As such, it’s worth checking the rules for the specific place the gift came from. 

Returning a gift you purchased

Firstly, it’s important to note that high street shops don’t have to allow you to return an item simply because you change your mind or don’t want it. However, if a shop has a returns policy, it has to stick to it.

If it was bought online, over the phone or by mail order, the person buying the gift may have additional rights to return it under the Consumer Contracts Regulations. For example, these give you a cancellation period that starts the moment you place your online order and ends 14 days from the day you receive your goods. 

If an item is faulty then legally you can get a full refund if you return it within 30 days. After 30 days, the store’s still obliged to provide a repair or replacement item.

It is worth checking the specific terms and conditions for yourself as the terms and conditions vary from company to company. You can find out more about your rights when returning gifts here. 

If you can’t return the gift then there are a few other options available to you – primarily, re-gifting the item or even selling it. You might also be able to donate it to charity, depending on what the item is.

Either way, the gift doesn’t go to waste and you are able to be rid of it, all without having to confess or have that awkward conversation with the original buyer. 

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