Before you Spend, Spend, Spend this Christmas – know your shopping rights

With only two weeks before Christmas Day, The Highland Council’s Trading Standards Officers are advising shoppers during this busy time to be aware of their consumer rights.

Head of Trading Standards, Nigel MacKenzie said:  “Some shoppers have taken the option to shop on-line this Christmas in order to beat the car park queues and crowds thronging around the busy towns throughout the Highlands. Whether you buy on-line or shop till you drop a reminder of what your shopping rights are (…..and your shopping wrongs) may save you time and money this Christmas!”

He advises that the following steps can be taken to ensure everyone’s shopping experience is less frantic:

• Make a list of all the people you want to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend on each person.  Having a shopping budget to work from means you don’t overspend unnecessarily.  

• Do buy several small gifts for those unexpected gifts you might receive.  A few boxes of shortbread or chocolates ready wrapped means you can deal these unexpected demands on your wallet or purse without being sent into another shopping panic.

• Whether you buy on-line or on the high street, always check if the shop or business has a ‘returns policy’.   On-line you may have a 7 day cooling-off period in which to return goods, but always check terms and conditions of the seller on-line to make sure there are no exclusions to these rights.  REMEMBER YOU DON’T HAVE THE SAME RIGHTS WHEN YOU SHOP ON THE HIGH STREET. 

• KEEP YOUR RECEIPT!  Get into the habit of putting aside your Christmas shopping/gift receipt for everything you buy.  Use a spare wallet or purse to keep these items in and keep it safe.  If goods become faulty or you have to return a gift for any other reason, i.e. the recipient does not like the colour or it does not fit for instance, you will need proof of purchase.

• Don’t be fooled by cheap bargains.  Remember shops may buy in cheap goods especially for Christmas.  Price can be used as a guide as to quality in most instances.  Buy wisely and don’t get carried away by ‘Special Offers’ or ‘Bargain Reductions’.  Examine the goods carefully, including care or assembly instructions before you buy.

• If you have to order goods be sure you know how long the delivery is going to take.  If ordering through the internet or a mail order catalogue leave plenty of time for the goods to be delivered.  If the terms and conditions say it is going to be 28 day delivery, then if you are ordering goods now, there is no guarantee they will arrive on time for Christmas.  

• If you find the goods you have bought are faulty or they become faulty you do have the right to ask for a refund or a replacement or a free repair.  Go back to the shop or contact the business you bought the goods from and complain to them, in writing if necessary, and give a time limit for the trader to look into the matter.  If you still are not satisfied with the outcome you can contact Consumer Direct Scotland consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06

• For purchases over £100 a good tip is to use your credit card.   Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, if you buy goods worth more than £100 in a single transaction, the seller and the finance company are equally liable. 

• If you buy goods in a ‘sale’ your statutory rights are not affected.  If the reduction in price is due to a fault that has been brought to your attention then you will not be able to reject the goods and get your money back or a replacement.

• Remember your rights are against the seller, not the manufacturer.  So don’t be put off in complaining to the shop or the business you bought your goods from.  The seller is responsible if goods become faulty.

More information about your rights can be found on or if you have a consumer problem you wish to discuss with an adviser you can contact Consumer Direct Scotland on 08454 04 05 06   0800 to 1830 Monday to Friday and 0900 to 1300 Saturday. 

If you feel your rights have been restricted, please contact Highland Trading Standards at the following address: Highland Trading Standards, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness, IV1 1UF

11 Dec 2006