Your rights when shopping for goods and how to get your money back or claim compensation when things go wrong

What you need to know about your shopping rights

  1. Legally, the goods you buy must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose. You can get a full refund if your item is faulty, not as described or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to – whether you’ve bought from retailers online or in shops. 
  2. After 30 days, you have the right for up to 6 months for a full refund on a faulty product if it can’t be repaired or replaced. This starts from the date of purchase.
  3. Your goods must also last a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. The law doesn’t define what this is but you have up to 6 years from the purchase date to claim some money back if your goods don’t last a reasonable amount of time.
  4. Buying online gives you the automatic right to return goods within 14 days if you simply change your mind. There are a few exceptions, largely related to perishable and personalised items.
  5. Got a problem? Complain first to the retailer. This is who your rights are with. Explain the problem and be clear on whether you want a refund, repair or replacement. If you don’t get a response or you’re not happy with it then look next at the way you paid. You could have the right to claim your money back via your bank or credit card provider

Your rights when shopping

You have certain consumer rights when you buy new or secondhand goods from retailers online or in shops. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stipulates that the products you buy from shops must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.

What does this mean?
  • Satisfactory quality Products you buy need to be in a good condition and without fault or damage. They should be safe and durable during their expected lifespan.
  • As described Your goods should match the description given or shown to you at the time of purchase.
  • Fit for purpose You should be able to use your product for the purposes it was advertised or described, and it should last a reasonable amount of time.

Refunds on goods bought in shops

You can legally get your money back on products bought in shops when things go wrong. Your rights are:

  • Up to 30 days: An immediate refund if your goods are faulty
  • Up to 6 months: A full refund if your goods can’t be repaired or replaced
  • Up to 6 years: You may be entitled to some money back if your goods don’t last a reasonable length of time

There are exceptions to these rights. You won’t be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if you caused the damage to the goods through misuse or accident, or if you knew about any problems before you bought the goods. 

There are certain items that you won’t be able to get a refund for unless they’re faulty – for instance, custom-made or personalised items, perishable food or flowers, or newspapers or magazines.

You don’t have an automatic right to a refund if you simply change your mind about goods you’ve bought in shops. However, many retailers offer a returns policy that allows for an exchange, refund or credit note for a certain amount of time – for example, up to 14 days.

If you’re buying from shops, it’s worth asking before you pay what the returns policy is on what you’re buying. Your rights cover items like underwear – but only if still in the packaging – though some shops choose not to allow returns if you simply change your mind.

Refunds on goods bought online

You have extra rights when you buy products online or off-premises (e.g. by phone, mail order or TV shopping channel). The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 gives you up to 14 days after receiving your goods to change your mind and get a full refund.

And, as with buying goods in shops, your rights are:

  • Up to 30 days: An immediate refund if your goods are faulty
  • Up to 6 months: A full refund if your goods can’t be repaired or replaced
  • Up to 6 years: You may be entitled to some money back if your goods don’t last a reasonable length of time

Again, there are exceptions to these rights. You won’t be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if you caused the damage to the goods by accident or misuse, or if you knew about any problems before you bought the goods. 

Is it worth buying an extended warranty?

People often choose to buy extended warranty policies for extra peace of mind – especially when they buy expensive household products. But they’re not the best option for everyone and often not worth the cost because you are likely to be covered in other ways.

You certainly don’t need cover for the first 6 months because you’re legally covered for a repair or replacement on faulty goods. Beyond this, you’ll be covered by the standard manufacturers guarantee for most appliances and electrical products – these often last for at least a year and many will be longer.

Your statutory rights also entitle you to claim some money back when your goods don’t last for a reasonable length of time – up to 5 years in Scotland and 6 years in the rest of the UK. You home contents insurance or your bank account might also cover common faults and problems you have with your appliances.

If you decide a warranty is for you, shop around for the best deal. If you have lots of gadgets and electrical appliances then you might be better off exploring multi-product insurance cover. Use the extended warranties comparison site to help you find the best deals.

If you buy an appliance or electrical product and an extended warranty from the same retailer, the Competition and Markets Authority requires the retailer to:

  • display the price and duration of an example extended warranty alongside the price of products
  • make clear that the purchase of an extended warranty is optional
  • provide information on your rights to cancel the extended warranty

Contact Citizens Advice (England or Wales), Consumer Advice Scot (Scotland) or Consumerline (Northern Ireland) if you think you’ve been mis-sold an extended warranty.

Your rights when buying from online marketplaces

Online marketplaces – like those run by Amazon Marketplace, Depop, eBay, Etsy and Vinted – can be great for bagging a bargain, buying second-hand or finding hard-to-come-by items. But be aware that consumer protection laws don’t apply when you buy from other consumers.

All goods, whether you buy from an online trader or a private seller, must not be misrepresented – so you will typically have the right to a refund or compensation if goods don’t match the description advertised.

But goods don’t have to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or free from fault (as long as this is mentioned by the seller.) Because your contract is with the seller, not the online marketplace, it can make it harder to get your money back.

Most online marketplaces have codes of conduct in place but, legally, they are mostly exempt from liability unless they’re aware, for example, of illegal goods being sold. 

If you have any problems getting your money back from a private seller on an online marketplace then do raise a complaint. See also Tips on getting your money back when things go wrong.

Amazon not offering best deals

Amazon is facing two competing multi-million-pound consumer lawsuits for favouring its own products. Amazon has been accused in separate claims by consumer advocates Julie Hunter and Robert Hammond of not always offering customers the best deals. It is estimated that more than 80% of Amazon shoppers in the UK bought products shown in Amazon’s Buy Box, and it’s here where Amazon is accused of favouring its own products.

Amazon is also accused of striking a secret deal to increase the cost of Apple products in a £500m consumer lawsuit being pursued by consumer law expert Professor Christine Riefa.

Claiming a refund for late delivery

If you bought the item from a retailer they must deliver your goods without unnecessary delay. Typically, this should be within 30 days of purchase, unless you have agreed a specific date for delivery. 

You can cancel your order and claim a refund for your goods and any additional delivery charges you paid if delivery dates are missed. 

If you have sent a parcel and it’s late arriving at the delivery address you should be entitled to the cost of the delivery service itself and you’re likely to be entitled to some compensation. However the amount you get will depend on the length of the delay, the type of delivery you paid for and often the delivery firm you used. Late delivery is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as it means the company has failed to provide the service with ‘reasonable care and skill’.

You will need to check the ‘terms and conditions’ of the delivery service you used to know what compensation is on offer. If you paid for additional cover – such as Royal Mail’s recorded delivery service – you will have additional protection. You will need to follow the claims process for the delivery service you have chosen, most often this is an online process like Royal Mail

Tips on getting your money back when things go wrong

Complaining about a retailer
  • Your rights are with the retailer you bought from so start by getting in touch with the company’s customer services team. Do this in writing if you can so you have a record.
  • Explain the problem and be clear on whether you want a refund, repair or replacement. Be polite and stick to the facts. It helps to make reference to your legal rights.
  • If you don’t get what you want then file a formal complaint to the retailer and tell them you intend to leave a bad review for others to see.
Complaining about a postal delivery service company
  • Contact the delivery service company directly and follow their complaints procedure
  • If  you’re not happy with its response you can escalate to a manager or in the case of Royal Mail, to Royal Mail’s Postal Review Panel via or by writing to FREEPOST, Postal Review Panel.
  • If your complaint still can’t be resolved satisfactorily, you can ask the independent postal redress scheme (POSTRS) to investigate your case. But, only regulated postal operators are covered by this scheme.

If you’re still unhappy with the response to your complaint, you’ll need to seek independent legal advice

Other ways of getting your money back

There are other ways you can solve your problem if speaking to the retailer doesn’t work or they ignore your complaint

  • If you paid by credit card, you can ask for your money back using Section 75 of the Credit Card Act if you paid for all (or some) of the cost this way for goods costing more than £100 but no more than £30,000. Speak to your credit card company to do this.
  • If you paid by debit card, you can ask for your money back using ‘chargeback’ which is a way for your card provider (including credit cards) to claim money from your retailer’s bank. You have 120 days from the transaction processing date and will need evidence that there has been a breach of contract. 
  • If you paid by PayPal or through a Buy Now Pay Later company you can open a dispute this way. You have 180 days from when you paid for the goods to make a claim using Paypal.
Escalating unresolved complaints
  • You can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you unsuccessfully tried to get your money back using Section 75.
  • You can also do this for an unsuccessful ‘chargeback’ claim if your bank won’t appeal to the retailer’s bank. If they have and the appeal fails then there is nothing else you can do.
  • Some retailers are members of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme who will look at your complaint and help you come to an agreement with the retailer. The trader is required to give you the name of any approved ADR body in their sector, and tell you if they’re a member.
  • As a last resort, you can take a seller to court to claim money you’re owed. This is known as taking someone to a ‘small claims court’ and it will cost you money and time. Fees will vary depending on the value of the claim you’re making.  

Claiming compensation if a product causes damage

Goods you buy must be safe. You are entitled to claim compensation if goods cause damage to your home, injury or death. This applies whether you bought the product from the manufacturer or not. 

Retailers and manufacturers (and sometimes others involved in the making of the product) are liable for their products under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. This product liability law gives you the right to sue for damage or injury caused by faulty products. 

Claiming for damage

You can legally claim for compensation if a product causes at least £275 in damage to your property through no fault of your own. So if, for example, your washing machine or dishwasher leaks and causes damage to your floor you can ask for compensation to fix the problem.

If you bought the product you should start by contacting the company you bought it from. Show evidence – for example photos – of any damage caused by the product. You can make a claim against the manufacturer if you didn’t buy the product.

If the damage is below £275 in value then you can also explore making a claim on your insurance policy. This could be quicker and easier but insurance excesses could leave you paying towards the cost of the claim. It may impact what you pay when you renew your policy.

Claiming for personal injury

You have the right to make a personal injury claim if you have been injured by a faulty product. You must claim compensation quickly because there are strict time limits on making claims – for example, negligence claims must be made within three years of injury.

Personal injury claims can be expensive so check to see if your home insurance policy covers legal expenses like these. You might be able to get help using a no-win-no-fee arrangement with your solicitor. If you win, fees will be paid by the company you’re claiming from.

Finding a lawyer with the right experience is important. A good starting point is to look for a solicitor who is a member of a recognised scheme or body. For example:

Getting your money back when a company goes bust

We often pay for goods ahead of receiving them – especially when buying online. Under existing laws, if a retailer goes out of business before goods are delivered to you then the current rules leave you unprotected with no guarantee your goods will be delivered.

The goods are instead seen as assets belonging to the business. These goods can be held by the company’s administrators to be used to pay off the retailers debts, leaving you out of pocket.

Current rules on ‘transfer of ownership’ date back to 1893 – and are quite clearly not fit for purpose in a world where consumers increasingly buy goods online and where goods are not immediately handed over at the point of sale. 

New proposals were made by the Law Commission to bring clarity for consumers about when they will become the legal owner of pre-paid-for goods. These new rules will provide better protections for consumers if a retailer goes bust but they are still under review.

Steps to get your money back 

If this has happened to you, the first step is to get in touch with the company to find out what’s happening. For online orders, you still have the right to cancel an order from the time you place it and up to 14 days from delivery but there is no guarantee you will get money back.. 

There is  ‘chargeback’ protection if you paid by debit or credit card. This is where you can ask your bank or credit card provider to reverse the transaction. The money comes from the supplier’s bank and not the supplier, which gives you a better chance of getting money back. 

You have legal rights under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you paid for goods costing between £100 and £30,000 on your credit card (in part or fully). In this situation, your credit card company is jointly liable for the refund if something goes wrong. 

Get free advice from the consumer helpline 

You can contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline (England or Wales), Consumer Advice Scot (Scotland) or Consumerline (Northern Ireland) if you need more help dealing with tricky retailers.