how to claim a refund on faulty items

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Buying from private sellers

If you’ve bought goods from a private seller – classed as someone who doesn’t sell goods professionally, including those who put secondhand items on eBay or Facebook Marketplace – your refund rights aren’t as strong.

In this case, you’re only really entitled to a refund if the product you’ve received is different from how they described it.

So, if their description is very vague and you still opt to part with your cash, you’re unlikely to get a refund, even if it’s faulty.

If you want a refund for other reasons

In many circumstances, you have the right to change your mind about something you’ve bought within a set timeframe. The length of this timeframe depends on how and where you bought the item.

Orders made online, via mail and telephone are covered under something called “distance selling” rules and can be cancelled for a limited time even if the goods are not faulty.

You can cancel or ask for a refund if you tell the retailer within 14 days of receiving the goods that this is what you want to do. You then have another 14 days to return the goods.

The retailer must then refund you within 14 days of receiving the goods back.

When companies don’t have to give you a refund

While consumer laws exist first and foremost to protect shoppers, they are also designed to protect companies from unreasonable shopper behaviour.

This means there are some instances where shops don’t have to give you a refund when you ask for one. They include:

  1. If you knew an item was faulty when you bought it
  2. If you damaged an item by trying to repair it yourself, or getting someone else to do it (though you may still have the right to a repair, replacement or partial refund)
  3. If the item has been damaged by “reasonable” wear and tear
  4. If you simply no longer want an item (unless you bought it without seeing it first)
  5. If an item was customised or personalised (unless faulty)
  6. If you bought perishable items (unless faulty)
  7. If you bought newspapers and magazines (unless faulty)
  8. If you bought unwrapped CDs, DVDs and computer software

There’s a bit of a grey area with some of these exclusions. For instance, while retailers don’t have to give you a refund for items you’ve bought and changed your mind about, many stores have their own more generous refund policies that will commonly give out refunds for unwanted items returned within a set timeframe.

If stores have published returns policies then they have to stick to them – so it’s worth checking beforehand.

Equally, when it comes to “reasonable” wear and tear, there aren’t any hard and fast rules so common sense needs to be applied.

For example, if a pair of sturdy boots break after two wears then they may reasonably be deemed to be faulty. However, if a pair of high heels with delicate embellishments are trashed after being worn to a big event, then that could probably be put down to wear and tear.

If a retailer is treating you unfairly

If you feel a retailer has not treated you fairly you should lodge an official complaint. This is best done in writing; note that most companies will deal with emails or online contact forms much faster than physical letters.

You should set out what the issue is, what you would like the outcome to be – a replacement, refund or compensation, for example – and why you think you’re entitled to it.

This is a good opportunity to show knowledge of your consumer rights. In many cases, retailers will do their best to smooth things over.

Paid by credit card? Use Section 75

If you cannot get a satisfactory resolution to your complaint, and you paid for the items either fully or partially on credit card, then you may be able to get a refund via a Section 75 claim to your credit card provider.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 means your credit card provider is jointly responsible for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by a retailer or trader, covering goods worth £100 to £30,000.

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