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Policies on returns differ in stores

Everybody loves Christmas morning, that remembered thrill of running to the tree as a child and finding a pile of gifts, all hidden by their seductively beautiful wrapping paper. Everyone has discovered, however, that without that wrapping paper, not all gifts are equal. Sometimes that are gifts which are really not suitable, sometimes there are gifts for things that we already have, and sometimes gifts are broken or don’t fit. If that happens, what rights do you really have to return these gifts, and do stores actually have to give your money back?

If there is nothing actually wrong with the product, the seller it is not under any obligation to exchange it or refund the purchase price. Often, with clothing or other items that are dependant on size, retailers will allow you to swap your gift for the same one but of the correct size. While not legally required to do this, if the item is still in stock and you can provide proof of purchase, retailers often allow it anyway. For this to occur, normally the item still has to be in the original packaging, obviously unused, and you will need a receipt or gift exchange card. The closest you will get to a refund in these situations is a store credit or voucher, although bear in mind that the retailer does not legally have to provide this, and can simply say “tough luck”.

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, if an item has been purchased that is broken or has a serious fault, the seller can choose to either repair or replace the item, or refund your money. Generally a serious fault means a reasonable consumer wouldn't have bought the product if they'd known about the fault. The Act also applies if the item can't be easily repaired, is unsafe, doesn't match its description or demo sample, or isn't fit for the product's normal purpose. If the seller opts to repair the item, they must do so within a reasonable amount of time. If it cannot be repaired, the seller still has the choice to replace the item with either the exact same or a better item. A seller or retailer cannot replace your item with an inferior one without at least refunding you the difference.

To be on the safe side, when you are buying items that need sizing or you are unsure about, ask about the returns policy before you buy. Many retailers will provide a gift exchange card rather than a receipt, so the person receiving the gift can at least swap it if they want something else. On the other hand, chocolate is one size fits all!