Beware new consumer rights do not give you a bruising

boxThe European Consumer Rights Directive strengthens rights for e-consumers and those who buy on their doorstep. But we all need to be careful that we do not end up worse off.

The new rights came in on Friday the thirteenth (June 2014) – which may be unlucky for some, but not for Money Fight Club followers,  if you follow our tips.
Under the changes, online and doorstep customers now have 14 calendar days to return goods they do not want, or to cancel contracts and get their money back plus the cost for post and packaging. This is double the previous time limit. Which has got to be good news? Hmmm….
The big risk is that the urgency to get the item packaged up and on its way back may be lost and you could miss the deadline.

How to cancel

This “cooling off” period ends 14 days after the day you received your goods. But if the deadline falls on a non-working day it is automaticaly extended to the next working day. Don’t let traders tell you otherwise.
There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with the item. You can change your mind for any reason. But you must very clearly  inform the trader of your decision . You can do this by:

  • adding something in writing and enclosing it with the returned goods
  • you can also send a fax or email to the trader.

The trader must provide you with a form you can use – but you don’t have to use it.
And as traders are like to monitor the new extended time period very carefully you may want to consider spending more on posting so you have a record of when the goods were returned. This is also a good reason for making contact by email and asking for an acknowledgement.

Take care of the packaging

Because this time-limited guaranteed refund applies to any item, even those that arrived in perfect condition but you simply decided you didn’t want after all, some online businesses may become a little more picky about the condition of the packaging or goods when they are returned.
We all know you cannot try on a dress or other item of clothing while it is in its sealed plastic bag but the trader wants to be able to sell any returns without incurring extra costs re-packaging the item. So don’t just rip your parcel open when it arrives. Peel back sticky tape, remove staples carefully and keep hold of all those strange bits of packaging including any pressed polysterene shapes that are used to hold an item in place.
Try to package up the item you are returning as neatly as possible (including those above bits and pieces that tend to hold the item secure in transit. The aim is to avoid any damage on the return journey and stop clothing or household items becoming crumpled.

Anything that arrives in less than peak condition or is very different from the website description or photographs may be trickier.

For example, you order a jacket in what you think is your correct size and it either buries you, or will not fasten because it’s so tiny. It could be because you didn’t read the sizing chart properly (things like chest and waist measurements used by individual manufacturers can vary), in which case you have 14 days. But if the item is obviously wrongly sized by the manfacturer you have more time to return it.
We have a letter that can help you return faulty online goods here
If the colour is different from the photographs then you may be able to argue that it was not as described in the advertisement or on the website. But arguing the case is so much easier if you make up your mind quickly. It’s also useful to take your own photographs before you return the item, just in case there is a dispute.

But still be on your guard

For items that are faulty or totally wrongly described, or rip-offs of the real thing, then you should get a full refund under the Sale of Goods Act, but a company that deliberately mis-describes an item it is selling may not be there when you want your refund.
If you have not heard of a company before and cannot find much out about it online, caution is required. If the price seems too good for the Dr Dre headphones then they are likely to be counterfeit. With electrical items they may be dangerous as well as fake.


One very clear exemption from the right to a refund is when you order something bespoke. If you have a baby’s name embroidered on a romper suit, or your initials on your golf balls, then there is no right to a refund if you change your mind. There must be something wrong with the item to get your money back.
The 14-day “cooling off” period also doesn’t apply to plane, train tickets or concert tickets or hotel bookings for specific dates. It also excludes
food and drink delivered regularly (such as by the milkman).
And if you are tempted by a double glazing or loft conversion salesman and then decide a week later you cannot afford or do not want their product you may have great difficulty cancelling. As soon as the order is received the factory will be set to work manufacturing the windows or other parts so that your “bespoke” order that cannot be cancelled.

So here are the Money Fight Club  rules to ensure you avoid a bruising:
  • Open carefully and return as soon as possible in the condition it arrived.
  • Checkout websites before you order
  • Make sure that you and the company are working from the same size guide.
  • Do not be fobbed off if you are returning an item that was mis-described or of lower quality than you were expecting for the price and from the illustrations.
  • Be sure before you order customised or made-to-measure goods.