Know your Christmas consumer shopping rights

The Highland Council’s Trading Standards team are keen to inform shoppers of their consumer shopping rights as the countdown to Christmas gets underway.   Christmas shopping lists not only include gifts for family and friends but essential food shopping for parties, Christmas dinners and lunches.

Highland Council Trading Standards want all Highland consumers to be aware of their shopping rights (and shopping wrongs on the high street and online) and so have provided the following advice and shopping tips for consumers at this busy time of year: 

Shopping online

• Online retailers have up to 30 days to deliver goods unless otherwise agreed.  If consumers want goods to arrive before Christmas, they should make sure this is guaranteed by the retailer.

• Consumers may also have a 7 day cooling-off period in which to return goods, (depending on the type of goods being ordered),if they change their mind.  Consumers should always check terms and conditions of the seller on-line to make sure there are no exclusions to these rights. 

• Be safe online.  Consumers should make sure they know where the internet trader is based and that their payment is protected before they pass over their credit or debit card details.

• Consumers should keep a paper copy of their order and print off terms and conditions at the time their order is made.   Shoppers should keep this information safe for future reference and check their emails (and spam email folder) for updates on delivery of goods.

• When shopping for food and other perishables (such as flowers) shoppers cannot cancel their order at a later stage.  However if food arrives and it is not of a satisfactory quality or it is late then a consumer may have a claim against the internet trader for compensation. 

Shopping on the High Street

• KEEPING SHOP RECEIPTS!  Although not a legal requirement, consumers should get into the habit of putting aside their Christmas shopping/gift receipt for everything that they buy.  A receipt is ‘proof of purchase’ that goods have been bought from a particular retailer on a specific date.  This can be important evidence for the consumer if a dispute arises later on about either the quality of the goods bought or if goods when ordered through the retailer, are delayed.

• Don’t be fooled by cheap bargains.  Remember a lot of shops may buy in cheap goods for Christmas in order to increase their profits.  Price can be used as a guide as to quality in most instances.  Consumers should buy wisely and don’t get carried away by ‘Special Offers’ or ‘Bargain Reductions’.  Savvy shoppers should examine the goods carefully, including care or assembly instructions before they buy.

• Remember not all shops offer a ‘returns policy’.  It is up to the shopper to check if an item can be returned as an ‘unwanted gift’ to the shop for a refund.

Know Your Consumer Rights

Statutory rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) are applicable to all consumers whether they shop online or on the high street:

• If goods purchased are faulty or they become faulty, (within the first 6 months of being purchased) a consumer does have the right to ask for:

-  a refund
-  or a replacement
-  or a free repair. 

A consumer should, in the first instance, go back to the shop or contact the business that they have 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.  It is for the retailer or business to prove that the goods conformed to the contract (i.e. were not faulty, were fit for their particular purpose, and/or were as described) at the time they were sold.  If the consumer wishes to claim a free repair or replacement more than 6 months after the date of purchase, then the burden of proof is back to the consumer to show that the goods did not conform to the contract.

• For purchases over £100 a good tip is for the consumer to pay using their credit card (if possible).  Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 as amended, if a consumer buys goods worth more than £100 in a single transaction, the seller and the finance company are equally liable. 

• If a consumer buys goods in a ‘sale’ then their statutory rights are not affected.  However, if the reduction in price is due to a fault that has been brought to the customers’ attention, then the consumer will not be able to reject the goods and get their money back or a replacement.

• Consumer rights are against the seller, not the manufacturer.  So consumers should not be put off complaining to the shop or the business where they have bought the goods from.  The seller is responsible if goods become faulty.

Highland Council Trading Standards wish all Highland consumers safe and happy shopping this Christmas.

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 Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06  

Consumers who feel that their shopping rights have been restricted, please contact Highland Trading Standards at the following address: Highland Trading Standards, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness, IV1 1UF

25 Nov 2013