Unhappy shoppers lose £1.2bn by not returning goods

New Which? research has revealed shoppers lost out on an estimated total of £1.2bn in the last year by not exercising their rights to return goods.

Around 12 million people have lost out on at least one occasion in the past year by not returning goods when they had the right to. Many shoppers simply don’t realise they can return items if they’re faulty, damaged or, if you’re shopping online, you simply change your mind.

As Which? launches a new and free to use consumer rights website, we found that only four in ten people know their rights when shopping online. 70% said they’d be more likely to buy from an electrical store if it was easy to return goods or cancel services, with 85% saying they’d probably not shop there again if they received poor service. Just 45% said they would know where to go to look for advice and information about their consumer rights.

Launched to coincide with World Consumer Rights Day, the new consumer-friendly site is designed to help people get clued up about their consumer rights, whether they are using smart phones in-store or at home. It contains straightforward advice on different problems from shopping rights to travel complaints and mobile phone issues, and includes practical help on how to take action to get your money back.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:

“With household budgets severely stretched, it’s staggering to think that collectively people have lost out on more than a billion pounds by not returning goods when they had the right to.

“The Government must not delay its plans to make consumer law simpler, clearer and stronger to empower consumers and boost standards of service. That will be good for growing businesses that treat people well, good for competition and good for the economy.

“Our new consumer rights website is really easy to use and helps people know what they’re entitled to, with practical advice on how to get your money back.”

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said:

“We have made significant steps towards strengthening consumer rights and protections since last year including banning unfair practices like excessive charges for card payments. We are working on a Consumer Bill of Rights which will make it clear and easy for consumers to know their rights when buying goods, services or digital content.

“These changes will help consumers immensely and it’s important that we make people aware of their legal rights. Which?’s new consumer rights website is a really great tool to point consumers in the right direction and provide them with useful advice and tips.”

Five things consumers don’t know about returning purchases:

1. Four in ten people (40%) don’t know they have seven working days from the day after they receive an item to let the online retailer know they want to return it, even if they simply change their mind. This doesn’t apply to some goods, like CDs or DVDs, that have been unsealed;

2. If you have bought goods online and the terms and conditions don’t say who pays for returns, then it is the retailer’s responsibility to pay for postage when returning items;

3. You have the right to cancel most goods online from the moment you place your order until seven working days from the day after you receive them. Even if the goods are in transit, you still have the right to cancel your order;

4. If you buy something online that gets damaged in the post, under the Sale of Goods Act, it’s the seller and not the delivery company who is responsible for the item until it arrives. Don’t be fobbed off by a retailer who says you should take up your complaint with the delivery company;

5. If you buy something and it breaks within the first six months, it’s up to the retailer to prove the item is not faulty. Watch out, though, because after six months the onus switches to the consumer who would then have to prove there was a defect when they got it.

Notes for editors:

1. Find out more about your consumer rights by visiting the website.

2. Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,074 people online between 20th and 22nd February 2013. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

3. 15th March is World Consumer Rights Day, run by Consumers International, it is an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement.

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