Know your rights on gift refunds

If you receive unwanted, inappropriate or ill-fitting presents this Christmastime, you may think you are entitled to an exchange or a refund. West Yorkshire Trading Standards is reminding consumers that, contrary to popular belief, this isn't an automatic right – but you may be able to take advantage of shops' goodwill policies

Legally, you are only entitled to a refund if an item is not as described, not fit for purpose or not of satisfactory quality. Normally, under the law, it is only the gift buyer who has a contract with the retailer and can enforce these rights.

However, gift receivers may be able to do this as a "third party" if they have been provided with a named gift receipt issued at the time of sale.

If you have used a product for a period of time, you may lose the right to a full reimbursement of the costs of the item, but you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or a partial refund.

Many shops will offer goodwill policies and will allow you to exchange goods for other items or credit notes, although this is not a legal obligation. Some stores will offer returns policies which will allow you to exchange unwanted items, obtain a credit note or a refund, but these are not obligatory. However, the situation can be different for goods bought online.

Online shoppers usually have the right to cancel their orders for up to seven working days after delivery, so buyers who received goods just before Christmas may have a small window of opportunity after the big day. In this case the online trader must provide a full refund within 30 days, including the original postage charges, although you may have to pay for the cost of return carriage. There are some items which cannot be cancelled such as perishable goods or goods made to order.

Graham Hebblethwaite, chief officer of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: "Many people do not realise that they don't have the legal right to return goods if they are not faulty."

For more information visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk