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Avoid meltdown in the summer sales - know your rights

30th June 2010 Print

Shoppers looking for cheap deals in the summer sales can avoid  bargain hunting misery by arming themselves with their consumer rights, Consumer Focus warns today. As shoppers flock to the sales in search of a sizzling bargain, the consumer champion is publishing its five top tips to help people avoid a wash-out at the tills if their purchase does not live up to expectations.

With retail spending totalling £21.3bn in July 2008, knowing their rights could save consumers some hard-earned cash at a time when every penny counts. If consumers buy goods in the sales they have the same legal rights as normal.  This means they can expect an item to be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If this turns out not to be the case, even with a sale item, customers should be entitled to a refund, replacement or repair.

Consumers are also being warned to check retailers' voluntary returns policies as they may be different during the sales.

Adam Scorer, Director of External Affairs at Consumer Focus, said: ‘With the VAT increase on the horizon shoppers will be keener than ever to bag themselves a bargain in the summer sales. Unfortunately, what seems like a great deal in the shop doesn't always look so good once you get it home. People need to be sure about what they are buying before they hand over their hard earned cash and understand how to take things back if they're not up to scratch.

‘It is important people know their consumer rights in case their shopping turns out to be more fool's gold than 24 carat. Shops may try and convince people they are not entitled to a refund when in fact they are. By protecting ourselves with our rights, we can all make sure we don't get burned in the heat of the summer sales.'

Consumer Focus's five top tips to avoid meltdown at the summer sales are:

If it's faulty - take it back.

When you buy something it has to be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If an item develops a fault within the first six months it is assumed the problem was there when you bought it so you should be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement.

You don't need a receipt to get a refund, a bank statement might do.

If an item is damaged or of poor quality you are entitled to a refund, even in the sales. Many shops say they only offer this with proof of purchase but that doesn't have to be a receipt. If you paid by card, your bank statement might do.

Don't be fobbed off by a warranty.

If the item has a warranty and there is a problem with it the shop may tell you to contact the manufacturer. However, remember that while a warranty may give you extra protections on top of your statutory rights it doesn't remove a retailer's obligations.   

If it's more damaged than the shop said, you can still take it back.

In the sales, shops often sell goods that are faulty with a special label on saying what the problem is, for example a missing button. If the item turns out to be even more damaged you are entitled to a refund, whatever the shop says.

Check the shop's returns policy - it may be different during the sale.

Some shops let you return an item if it doesn't fit or you change your mind but they don't have to and may not let you do so in the sale. Shoppers need to think carefully before they get to the till and be sure about what they're buying. Check whether you can return something and if you can, ask what the time limit is.