How I get free extra protection on my shopping (and how you can too)

I follow two simple rules to maximise my consumer protection whenever I go on a shopping spree. Here’s how you can do the same.

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

Young man shopping with credit card and laptop computer

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Aside from the weekly grocery shop, I try to avoid shopping if I can. However, whenever the need arises to go on a (controlled) spending spree, I always make a point to bag myself free, extra protection on my purchases.

I get this extra protection simply because of where I shop and how I pay. Doing this means I’m safe in the knowledge that should anything go haywire, I won’t need to worry too much! Here are the two rules I follow to protect my shopping.

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1. I buy goods online where possible

Whenever you buy a product or service, you technically enter into a contract with a retailer. This gives you some sort of consumer protection. However, there are differences between protections offered for online and offline purchases. This is why I choose to shop online whenever possible.

For example, if I buy an item online but I later change my mind, I know I’ll benefit from a 14-day cooling-off period. During this time, I can return an item and pocket a full refund. This is all thanks to the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 that apply to online purchases.

Under these regulations, once I notify the retailer I wish to return an item, I have 14 more days to return it (though some retailers go above and beyond this).

Understandably, a cooling-off period does not apply to perishable or personal items. It is also doesn’t apply to purchases from private individuals as opposed to registered businesses.

If returning an unwanted item, it’s possible that there will be return delivery fees involved. However, this will vary by retailer. I usually check this carefully before buying items online!

What about in-store shopping rights?

Unfortunately, the above protection doesn’t apply in the same way when buying items in store.

For example, you don’t get any guaranteed 14-day cooling-off period if you change your mind after buying goods in store. As a result, you have to rely on a retailer’s own returns policy, which may stipulate you’re only entitled to an exchange or a credit note for the same value as the item you purchased.

The only difference is when the item you are buying is faulty. If this is the case, then you’ll be entitled to a full refund or replacement, as long as you take back your item within 30 days (and you weren’t aware of the fault when you bought the item). This protection applies to both in-store and online purchases.

If 30 days have passed, then you can still claim a refund. However, you’ll have to prove any faults existed when you bought the item, which may prove tricky!

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2. I pay for items costing more than £100 on a credit card

Aside from making sure I shop online to benefit from a 14-day cooling-off period, I also make a point of paying with a credit card whenever I buy high-cost goods.

That’s because if buying something on a credit card costing over £100 (and up to £30,000), section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 applies to the purchase. This means that my credit card provider becomes equally liable should something go wrong with the item.

For example, if I order an expensive item, such as a sofa, and the retailer goes bust before I receive it, I know I won’t have to chase down the administrator to claim my losses.

Instead, I have a guarantee that I can simply go to my credit card company citing ‘Section 75’. By doing this, I’d have a much better chance of getting back my cash. The best part of Section 75 protection is that it’s completely free.

What about items costing less than £100?

If something goes wrong with an item I buy that costs less than £100, Section 75 doesn’t apply. However, under voluntary Mastercard, Visa and American Express rules, I can instead rely on the ‘chargeback’ process. While this offers far less protection than Section 75, it’s still worth being aware of.

For example, under the chargeback scheme, you usually have 120 days to make a claim. Once you’ve made a claim, your card provider will try to claw back your cash from the original retailer. Chargeback applies to spends under £100, and for purchases made on a debit (and credit) card.

For more information, see our article that explains what chargeback is and how it works.

What if a Section 75 or chargeback claim is unsuccessful?

If you make a Section 75 or chargeback claim and you think your bank has treated you unfairly, then you have a right to take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The Ombudsman Service was set up to resolve complaints against financial organisations, and it’s totally free to use. For more information on how to raise a complaint, visit the Financial Ombudsman website.

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