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Your Christmas shopping rights explained: From returns and refunds to faulty or disappointing gifts

Whether buying a gift for your work Secret Santa, or masking your reaction while unwrapping a hideous jumper from your mum, negotiating Christmas gifts can be a festive minefield.

To add to the stress of ordering presents for family and friends in time for Christmas this year, strikes by Royal Mail have spelled further chaos for online retailers trying to get their products out in time to customers.

What are your rights if the present you ordered online for your partner arrives broken in the post, or if you desperately want to return that woolen mess? Here is what to do next and what you might be entitled to:

What can I do if the gift I bought is faulty?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you are entitled to goods which are of satisfactory quality, are free from faults or defects, match the description of the item you were sold, and last a reasonable time.

If an item does not meet these requirements, you are entitled to a full refund up to 30 days from purchase. If more than 30 days have elapsed but it has been less than six months, you may still be entitled to a repair or replacement of the product.

If you wish to return a faulty item you bought online, and it breaches the CRA, you do not have to pay for postage.

What are my rights if my delivery doesn’t come on time, and will I still be protected during the Royal Mail strikes?

If you paid extra to ensure an item was delivered on a particular date (including next day delivery) and it does not arrive when specified, then you can seek a refund from the retailer of the money you paid in delivery fees.

You can still claim a refund of the money you paid for delivery if your item did not arrive on time because of the Royal Mail strike action. However, it is a good idea to plan ahead and allow extra time for delivery and check dispatch times to avoid disappointment, as the impact of strikes is outside the retailer’s control.

Consumer rights expert Martyn James said that if you have purchased goods online you will have a 14-day cancellation period “in most circumstances,” so it might be best to keep checking the delivery status and cancel if it looks unlikely you will receive the item in time.

“If the delivery date seems to be going rogue you could cancel, get a full refund and go elsewhere,” Mr James said.

If my item is damaged during delivery, what should I do?

Under the CRA when buying an item online and getting it shipped your contract is with the retailer – not the delivery company. Therefore you should complain to the company which sold you the item and shipped it to you, and not the courier.

In order to make the most effective consumer complaint, it is best to do it in writing (as evidence if you need to pursue the matter further) and to quote the law, according to Helen Dewdney, a consumer champion also known as The Complaining Cow.

“Be polite, objective and succinct. Outline the issues and what you want as a solution. Is it a refund? Or is it an apology?” Ms Dewdney said.

You should also provide a deadline by which you expect to get a response, and tell the retailer what you will do if you do not receive one – such as share your experience on a review website or go to the relevant ombudsman or small claims court.

Can I return a gift I don’t like and get a refund?

If you change your mind on a gift that you bought online for yourself or to give to someone else, then you have a cooling off period of 14 days, and an additional 14-day window to return the item to get a refund. Whether you pay postage is at the retailer’s discretion.

If you have received an item as a gift from someone else and there was a gift receipt alongside the product, then you can return it and get a refund, replacement, or voucher. The retailer decides what options are available to you.

If you do not receive a gift receipt, it will be up to the policies of the retailer as to whether or not you can claim anything back.

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