Published On: Mon, Dec 9th, 2019

Martin Lewis explains your consumer rights – when you can & can’t return non-faulty items

You DON’T have a right to change your mind – so don’t assume you can take it back

Whenever I say this, jaws drop and people look at me askance. Yet it’s important to know conventional wisdom is wrong here. Buy goods in-store and you have no legal right to return them if you change your mind, if it’s the wrong colour, or you got the wrong size.

You may have a contractual right, but only if the store has a published ‘returns policy’. For example ‘you can exchange within 30 days’ if so then that is enforceable, but stores don’t have to offer this – and some don’t.

Buy online and you CAN change your mind

Online shoppers have more rights. The Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 state that unless goods are personalised or perishable you have the right to send them back whether they’re faulty or not (even if you’ve opened the box).

You have up to 14 days after you receive an item to notify the site you are returning it, and then up to 14 days after that to send it back. Therefore a total maximum 28 days.

You should also get a refund of your original lowest postage payment (i.e. not if you paid more for express postage).

Though you can be asked to pay for the return postage, so before you buy you might want to check where you have to send the item back to beforehand, as some online goods can come even as far afield as China and sending goods back may cost more than you paid in the first place.

READ MORE: Martin Lewis on new HSBC overdraft changes expert claims will make Britons ‘worse off’

Is it faulty – not if you’re a SAD FART

Over the last decade many have shouted SAD FART at me in the street. Thankfully, mostly because they know it’s my mnemonic phrase for remembering your consumer rights – I’ve even heard some law classes now teach it.

All goods should be of Satisfactory quality As Described, Fit for purpose And last a Reasonable length of Time. If not, they’re faulty, and that means you’ve strong legal rights. 

The tricky concept is ‘goods must last a reasonable length of time’ if not they were faulty when bought.

What’s reasonable? It depends on the item, e.g. I’d say a 10p whistle breaking after 6mths use is reasonable, the same with a £500 TV isn’t.

You don’t need a receipt to return faulty items

The law just requires proof of purchase. A receipt is easiest, but if not a credit card or bank statement may provide the evidence needed. 

However if goods aren’t faulty, many stores do require a receipt to return them.

And then, as they are being generous to allow returns at all, if they say jump up and down and call me Tigger to get your money back, be prepared to bounce.

Your legal rights are the SAME in the sales / discounted items

Even when things are discounted, you’ve the same rights if goods are faulty. Yet if they’re not faulty, you’re again reliant on the stores own policy, and some SUSPEND their usual return rights in the sales, so check before you buy. 

Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of To join the 13 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to

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