Accepting returns and giving refunds: the law

Business: Sale Goods Services Data

    You must offer a full refund if an item is faulty, not as described or doesn’’t do what it’’s supposed to.


    When you don’t have to offer a refund

    You don’t have to refund a customer if they:

    • knew an item was faulty when they bought it
    • damaged an item by trying to repair it themselves or getting someone else to do it (though they may still have the right to a repair, replacement or partial refund)
    • no longer want an item (eg because it’s the wrong size or colour) unless they bought it without seeing it

    You have to offer a refund for certain items only if they’re faulty, eg:

    • personalised items and custom-made items, eg curtains
    • perishable items, eg frozen food or flowers
    • newspapers and magazines
    • unwrapped CDs, DVDs and computer software

    Customers have exactly the same rights to refunds when they buy items in a sale as when they buy them at full price.

    Online, mail and phone order sales

    Online, mail and telephone order customers have the right to cancel for a limited time even if the goods aren’t faulty. Sales of this kind are known as ‘distance selling’.

    You must offer a refund to customers who buy through distance selling if they cancel goods within 7 calendar days of receiving them.

    You must then refund the customer within 30 days. They don’t have to provide a reason for cancelling.

    Repairs and replacements

    If a customer has ‘accepted’ an item, but later discovers a fault, you may have to repair or replace it. The customer can still reject the item after it’s been repaired or replaced.

    A customer has accepted an item if they’ve:

    • told you they’ve accepted it (having had enough opportunity to inspect the item before confirming they’ve received it)
    • altered the item

    You must repair or replace an item if a customer returns it within 6 months – unless you can prove it wasn’t faulty when they bought it.

    You can ask a customer to prove an item was faulty when they bought it if they ask for a repair or replacement after 6 months.

    Customers have up to 6 years to make a claim for an item they’ve bought from you (5 years in Scotland).

    Warranties and guarantees

    A customer has the same right to free repairs or a replacement regardless of whether they have a warranty or guarantee or not. So you may still have to repair or replace goods if a customer’s warranty or guarantee has run out.

    Proof of purchase

    You can ask the customer for proof that they bought an item from you. This could be a sales receipt or other evidence such as a bank statement or packaging.

    Items returned by someone other than the buyer

    You only have to accept returns from the person who bought the item.

    Penalties for displaying notices

    It’’s illegal to display any notice that deliberately misleads consumers or deceives them about their rights – eg, a sign that says you don’’t accept returns or offer refunds.

    Read more about consumer protection from unfair trading.

    When you do and don’t have to offer a refund, repair or replacement, unconditional refunds for online purchases, and penalties for deceiving customers