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Know your statutory rights: shopping online and in store

Know your statutory rights: shopping online and in store
Image source: Getty Images


The internet has changed the way we shop dramatically, and permanently. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 updated our statutory rights to keep pace with these changes. The law protects your transactions through statutes – hence statutory. 

If you’re not entirely sure what your statutory rights are, read on to find out.

Knowing your statutory rights

Every time you buy something, in a shop or online, you enter into a contract with the seller. Both parties need to follow the rules. 

With the Consumer Rights Act the government has broadened our statutory rights to include services, and digital purchases like e-books and music. Consumer rights laws are complicated, but it pays to understand the basics of your statutory rights – before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Shops and online retailers may have their own policies, in addition to abiding by basic statutory rights. If a retailer’s policy conflicts with the Consumer Rights Act, then your statutory rights must take precedence. 

I changed my mind!

Sometimes, we just don’t like what we’ve bought when we get it home, or when it arrives in the post. If you change your mind about something you buy, here’s what you can do, according to your statutory rights.

In store

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t entitle shoppers to a refund if they have simply changed their mind about a purchase in store. However, many retailers are prepared to exchange the item, or offer a credit note or even a refund.

If you are having even the smallest of doubts at the till, check the store’s policy about returns. This is particularly important with clothing where changing rooms are closed!

Shopping online

Statutory rights provide consumers with a 14-day cooling off period for online purchases and other distance selling transactions. This doesn’t apply to perishable goods, of course, or personalised items. However, don’t expect a refund if you have used or damaged the item!

Inform the retailer within the 14-day period that you are rejecting the item. You then have a further 14 days to return it. 

As it’s not possible to fully inspect what you are buying online, the law allows online shoppers greater protection from buyer’s regret.

I didn’t get what I thought I was getting…

According to UK statutory rights, retailers’ merchandise must be ‘as described’. This means that labelling in store, online, or in a catalogue, should be accurate. 

In store

Retailers must accept responsibility if an item’s packaging is misleading. The customer is not expected to take the matter up with the manufacturer; the seller must give a refund. 

Take the item back to the store as soon as possible, otherwise it may appear that you have accepted it.

It should be obvious that the labelling was misleading. Stores expect that customers are careful to inspect their purchases before buying.

However, not all problems will be immediately apparent. For example, if you buy a box of ‘lemon-scented’ candles, but they actually smell strongly of pine, you should expect a refund. 

Online and distance selling

Consumers already have the 14-day cooling off period anyway. Beyond that, if you open a tin of ‘red’ paint and find blue paint, you have 30 days to request a refund or replacement.

PayPal, who will assist with disputes over purchases made through the service, state that the item must be ‘significantly’ not as described. 

Further consumer rights protection for purchases over £100 can be acquired by using a credit card

It’s broken, faulty, useless or unsafe

  • If you were made aware of the fault before you handed over your money, then the retailer doesn’t have to do anything about it.
  • Reject the faulty goods within 30 days and you will get a refund. After that, the retailer has one chance to repair or replace the item before returning your money.
  • Goods sold must be fit for purpose, and of satisfactory quality. This is harder to prove, but shoppers should be confident and reject anything substandard.
  • Six months after purchase, you must prove that any faults were there originally, and not due to anything that has happened since.
  • It the fault has caused any damage, you should receive compensation.
  • Consumers can continue to seek redress for up to six years.

Statutory rights and second-hand items

Statutory rights entitle shoppers to the same protection when buying second-hand from a business, either in store or online.

There are more detailed rules for used cars – you might feel safer with a warranty, but make sure to explore all options in full.

Buying from a private individual comes with risk. Private sellers only have to abide by the rule that what they are offering is ‘as described’. 

Consumer rights and you

When you get value for money, remember that your statutory rights are acting as a deterrent against poor quality goods and services. Don’t be afraid to make a complaint.

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