Q&A: Christmas online shopping rights and you

Christmas present
Image caption Online sales have revolutionised Christmas shopping for many people

Christmas is one of the happiest times of year for most people, but the stress levels can rise when it comes to buying presents.

Inevitably things go wrong on occasions, and online shopping can add an extra variable of delivery into the mix.

So what are your rights, and how are things different when buying on the High Street and online?

Can I guarantee that my purchases will arrive in time for Christmas?

Online retailers have up to 30 days to deliver goods, unless specifically agreed otherwise. So it may be the case that you have already left it too late.

If delivery before Christmas is part of the contract, and specified in a confirmation e-mail, then you may have a claim in a small-claims court for breach of contract if it fails to arrive before 25 December.

Otherwise, any goods that arrive late can be returned within seven days if they are no longer wanted under normal distance selling regulations.

What about if delivery is affected by the weather, such as a big snowfall?

Retailers may write into their contract that unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather, may exempt them from a claim for breach of contract. Each retailer might have different rules.

If you decide to send items back, then the seven-day returns rule covers the period from when it arrives to when you send it back - rather than when it is received by the retailer.

So, if it is snowing, a delayed delivery will not affect your returns rights. Consumer groups advise getting a receipt from the Post Office as proof that you have sent it back on time.

So, is the right of return a key difference when buying online?

Yes. The seven-day cooling-off period when buying online gives you the right to a full refund, including the original delivery charges, regardless of the reason for returning it - and that includes just changing your mind on wanting it.

Otherwise, if you buy items on the internet you have the same rights as when you buy on the High Street.

Those rights include a refund, replacement or repair if the items is not as described on the website or in the store, if it is not of satisfactory quality, or not suitable for the purpose for which it is intended.

If it proves to be defective within the first six months after purchase, then the onus is on the retailer to prove the fault did not exist at the time of sale and customers can get a partial refund, repair or replacement. After that, the onus is on the customer to prove it was faulty when they bought it.

Are the return rules true of all products?

No. Some goods, such as perishable food, are exempt for obvious reasons.

Other exemptions include flowers, personalised goods, and audio or software with the plastic packaging removed.

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