Know your Consumer Rights: Beat the Christmas Blues

As we approach the last few days of November the festive season dawns upon us; Christmas lights and decorations are making an appearance in homes and around cities across the nation, we have seen our first snowfall of the year and everybody is beginning to get into the festive spirit.

We spend billions as a nation on many things for Christmas Day such as decorations, food, drink and gift-wrapped presents to share with loved ones with the average household spending in excess of £850 to celebrate one day of the year but what if there are problems with the gifts you are giving or the decorations you are buying? The last thing you want to discover is that something you have purchased for a family member or friend is defective or broken … but regrettably this does happen from time to time.

In January 2015 complaints to the Citizens Advice Bureau doubled on average compared to the rest of the year with the largest numbers of complaints being made about electronics, toys and clothing/jewellry. With this in mind it is important now more than ever to know your rights as a consumer to protect yourself from this and ensure that you get what you pay for;

Getting your money back

You have up to 30 days to reject or return goods that are faulty in order to get your money back.

Repair or replace

If you run out of time or cannot return the goods for a refund you can ask for the damaged or faulty goods to be repaired or replaced free of charge and if this does not resolve the problem you are entitled to a refund.

Get in contact 

The sooner the problem is reported the more likely it will be resolved. Call or visit the retailer as soon as possible if a fault is discovered. If there is an issue with the goods it is the retailer’s responsibility within the first six months from being purchased to prove that the item was of satisfactory quality at the point of sale.

Make a complaint

If the retailer refuses to refund, repair or replace the faulty item you should take the next step to put your complaint in writing to the general store manager. If it is a gift you have received you may have to ask for the person who bought it for you to send the letter as the sales contract is between the retailer and the purchaser.

Report to the Ombudsman

If a reasonable amount of time has passed without resolution (usually about eight weeks) you can choose to escalate your problem to the Consumer Ombudsman to attempt for them to resolve.

Small claims

If you have not had any success in reaching a resolution with a retailer or through the Ombudsman you can consider taking the matter further to the small claims court, there is a small application fee to pay but it is always worth checking whether your car or home insurance has legal expenses cover as this can be used to cover such costs.

Going through the small claims court can be a simple way to settle a dispute when you find yourself dealing with a particularly difficult retailer and it can be beneficial to consider using a direct access barrister to advise and act on your behalf in court if you are struggling to reach a resolution rather than going through a solicitors firm. The barrister can draft all of the paperwork you need to file for you, they can read through papers and prepare any evidence you may need to present in court and can even act on your behalf if you are not comfortable with doing so yourself.

With the vast majority of people following the trend of turning to online shopping rather than visiting the high street stores you should also be aware that all of your rights remain the same even if you purchase your goods online.

Should you find yourself in a position requiring the assistance of a barrister for a small claims matter, contact ShenSmith Barristers on 0203 627 9580


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