What to do when you want to return an item?

We all need to make returns from time to time, but do you know where you stand? How you return your goods come down to where you bought them in the first place, and the reasons why you want to return them.

If you need to return something, read on to find out how to make sure you have a smooth ride.

Read the returns policy

Whether you purchased your goods online or in-store, make sure you check out the retailer’s return policy. Ultimately, this will have the most significant impact on your experience. Some will only offer an exchange or give you a credit note, while others are happy to provide full refunds.

You can usually find the returns policy listed on receipts, on signs, in-store and online. Alternatively, you could also give the retailer’s customer services team a call.

Here are a few general things to consider when making a return in-store or online.


It’s worth bearing in mind that you’re not automatically entitled to a refund just because you’ve changed your mind about an item you bought from a shop. In this instance, whether or not a retailer decides to give you a refund is down to their goodwill and customer services policy.

Many bigger stores will be happy to offer you a refund, credit note or exchange if you return non-faulty goods within the time limit. Make sure you have the receipt, as they’re more than likely to ask for a proof of purchase,.


If you bought your item online (or even by phone or mail order), you have additional rights. For example, you have the right to make a return under the Consumer Contracts Regulation – meaning you have a cancellation period that starts from the moment you order and ends 14 days from the day your goods arrive.

Once you’ve notified the retailer that you want to cancel your order, you then have a further 14 days from that date to return the items to them.

However, there are some exceptions. These include:

  • Personalised items
  • Perishable goods, such as flowers or fresh food
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Event tickets
  • Sealed products that have been opened (for example, DVDs, CDs and computer games)


Don’t damage the packaging

If the item you’d like to return comes with packaging, be sure to be careful.

If you mark, damage or tamper with packaging, then it can all go downhill, and a retailer could refuse to accept your return. This is because most return policies state that they can accept non-faulty returns, just as long as the goods are unused and in perfect condition – complete with their original, undamaged packaging.

This can apply to items purchased in-store and online, so either way, it’s important to take care.

What about faulty items?

If the item you want to return is poor quality, unfit for purpose, or not as described, the rules are different. You’re protected by the law, which says the retailer must give you a full refund within 30 days. In fact, you have up to six months to exchange the item for a fully working version.

If you purchased over six months ago, you’re still entitled to ask for a repair or replacement item. But if you request a refund, you’ll only receive a partial refund. The reason for this is that it reflects the use you’ve had out of the item until that date. You may also be asked to prove that you didn’t cause the fault.


What you need for returns

As we said, it all depends on the retailer’s individual returns policy – so this is the first place to look or discuss with them over the phone e.g. with Amazon or Very. Here are a few general things to consider when it comes to returns in-store and online.

  • A receipt – make sure you hold onto your receipt and take it to the shop when making your return. This is your proof of purchase
  • The card you paid with – if you bought your item with a card, you’ll need to take it along with you. Your refund must be credited to this card.
  • The original packaging – this is critical. It’s essential to have the original packing – box, plastic pack, even things like cable ties.

No receipt?

If you’ve lost or forgotten your receipt, the retailer doesn’t have a legal obligation to provide you with a refund. But many stores will offer an exchange or credit note instead, so it’s worth asking the question if you find yourself in this situation.

If your item happens to be faulty but you no longer have the receipt, you’re still entitled to a repair, refund or replacement. In this case, you’re protected by the Consumer Rights Act. All you need to do is show proof of payment, such as a bank statement showing the transaction.