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Revealed: Shoppers given WRONG sale return rights info by 10 online stores

Revealed: Shoppers given WRONG sale return rights info by 10 online stores

Ten online retailers including household names such as Accessorize and Oasis have been giving shoppers the wrong info about their return rights for sale items, a MoneySavingExpert.com investigation reveals – and five more including M&S and New Look have given info we believe is misleading.

Shops can offer their own returns policies that go over and above what's guaranteed in consumer law. But under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, if you buy something online you've normally a minimum of 14 days after it's delivered to cancel your order, then a further 14 days after cancellation to return it for a full refund – whether or not it was in a sale. This applies even if you've just changed your mind. 

Yet as the Boxing Day sales approach, we've found 15 online stores that have been giving wrong info about return rights for sale items, or info we believe is misleading (see the full table below). For example, these were plain wrong:

  • Accessorize said: "Get them back to us within 30 days of receipt (14 days for outlet or sale pieces)". This isn't right – you've 14 days to cancel and a further 14 days to get 'them', ie, the goods, back, whether on sale or not.

  • Oasis said: "You must then within 28 days of receiving the goods (14 days for reduced or sale products) return the goods to us." Again this isn't right, as you've 14 days to cancel and a further 14 to return sale items – after we contacted Oasis, it amended its site.

In total, we found:

  • 10 retailers were just plain wrong on your return rights. Other examples of online stores that gave the wrong info, in addition to the two above, included Boden, Monsoon and Never Fully Dressed

  • Five more hid your real rights. Online stores' own returns policies are often less generous in some respects than your legal rights – and we believe return rights info that fully details a retailer's own policy without also explaining your legal rights is misleading. 

    For example, M&S's 'Returns and refunds' page sets out its 'goodwill returns policy' in full – giving you 14 days to return sale items bought online – but only added briefly that "Your statutory rights are not affected", ie, that you also have your legal rights in addition to this policy. This left shoppers having to click through if they wanted a further explanation. Other online stores that gave info we believe was misleading included Burberry and New Look
After we reported the issues to them, nine of the 15 retailers agreed to review their sites and some have already made changes. We're reporting to Trading Standards the six retailers that have refused to make changes or haven't responded to us – see full info in the table below.
 

'No excuse to play fast and loose with consumer rights'

Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com founder, said: "There is no excuse for some of the nation's flagship retailers to play fast and loose with their customers' statutory consumer rights.

"These rules aren't new. This is the fifth Christmas since they came into effect. We've even flagged up before similar crap information on stores' websites. Yet things aren't improving at anything close to the pace needed. This indicates at best a flagrant lack of care for their customers, or at worst, a deliberate attempt to defeat the law to protect their own pockets.

“If this continues, enforcement action should be taken by Trading Standards. We will be forwarding our research findings to them. Yet meanwhile everyone should tool up on their consumer rights knowledge.

"While legally you can only return goods bought in store if they're faulty (though many retailers' policies are more generous), buy something online, and by law, provided it is not perishable or personalised, you have 14 days in which to tell them you're sending it back, and 14 days after you tell them to send it back. That's a maximum 28 days. If their websites give worse terms, or try to claim different, politely inform them they're talking balderdash and baloney."

Retailer-by-retailer return rights info

We scoured 100 retailers' sites to see if their returns policies fully informed shoppers of their legal rights on sale items, and found 15 that fell short: 

RETAILER WHAT THE WEBSITE SAID OUR VERDICT IS IT CHANGING ITS POLICY?
Accessorize "Get them back to us within 30 days of receipt (14 days for outlet or sale pieces)" Wrong – you've 14 days to cancel then a further 14 days to return, even sale items No – its policy hasn't changed. It told us cancellation info is listed separately on its T&Cs page
Anthropologie "This standard right of return or exchange is provided in addition to the cancellation right set out above and does not affect your statutory rights as a consumer... Sale items can be returned within 14 days from the dispatch date" Misleading – should be clearer: you've 14 days to cancel and a further 14 to return under statutory rights, not just say they're not affected (cancellation rights were on another page, not "set out above") Yes – it's now amended its policy
Boden "If you return an item within three months of receipt (although this is reduced to 14 days on sale goods), we'll give you back the amount you paid for the item" Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then a further 14 days to return Yes – it's now amended its policy
Burberry "Free returns are available worldwide for all full-price items within 30 days of shipping and all sale items within 14 days of receipt... This does not affect your statutory rights" Misleading – should be clearer that you've 14 days to cancel then 14 to return – this isn't fully explained in separate section further down the page No – its policy hasn't changed. It says: "We do not expressly set out the period of time that a customer has to return goods to us if they exercise their cancellation rights. We leave this to the customer's discretion."
Damsel in a Dress "Sale items should be returned within 14 days of receipt of the last item in your order" Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then 14 to return Yes – it's now amended its policy
Hush "We also require returned sale items to be sent back within 14 days of receipt" Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then 14 to return Not yet – it didn't reply and its policy is unchanged
Joules "If the item you purchased was a sale item then please return within 14 days... Full details of your right to cancel and return products can be found in our terms and conditions" Misleading – should be clearer: you've 14 days to cancel then 14 to return, rather than burying it in the T&Cs Yes – it's amended its policy
The Kooples "During special sales (outlet sales and flash sales), the delay to return articles is reduced to 15 days." Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then 14 to return Not yet – it didn't reply and its policy is unchanged
M&S "You can return an item within 35 days of when you purchased or received it (14 days for sale items bought online)... Your statutory rights are not affected" Misleading – should be clearer that you've 14 days to cancel and 14 to return under statutory rights, not just say they're unaffected. Its 'statutory rights' page also said 'click here for further details', but had no link Not really – it's moved the mention of statutory rights up the page, but its policy still doesn't explain what they are. It has added the missing link on the statutory rights page. M&S says: "Customers can find full details including cancellation and returns rights on our website."
Monsoon "We can confirm that for sale priced items that were purchased online, you have 14 days to return them" Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then 14 to return No its policy hasn't changed. It told us cancellation info is listed separately on its T&Cs page
Never Fully Dressed "Sale items cannot be refunded but can be returned (within 14 days) for a credit note valid only for three months" Wrong – you've 14 days to cancel then 14 to return – and should get a full refund Yes – it's amended its policy
New Look "The FASTEST way to get a refund or exchange for your item is to return it to a New Look store (UK) within 28 days of purchase (sale items within 14 days)... As a consumer you also have certain statutory rights" Misleading – should be clearer that you've 14 days to cancel then 14 to return under your statutory rights, not just say they're not affected Yes – it's amended its policy
Oasis "You must then, within 28 days of receiving the goods (14 days for reduced or sale products), return the goods to us" Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then 14 to return Yes – it's amended its policy
Phase Eight "Our returns policy entitles you to a refund for item(s) bought online with a proof of purchase, within 28 days of receipt for full-price items and within 14 days for sale items" Wrong – you've 14 days after delivery to cancel then 14 to return Yes – it's amended its policy
William Powell "Sale/reduced and Black Friday items...  must be returned within 14 days" Wrong – you've 14 days to cancel then 14 to return Yes – it's amended its policy

Spotted another? If you spot any other retailers that don't fully explain your legal rights, please email the details, with a link or screen grab if possible, to news@moneysavingexpert.com.

What ARE your online return rights?

Your online buying rights are set out under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 – these are your legal rights, so retailers can make them better but they must offer you them as a minimum. Here are the top five need-to-knows:

1. Almost all goods bought online can be cancelled, including sale items. Unlike buying in store, buy online and you do have an absolute right to cancel, even if you've just changed your mind. The key exceptions, though, are personalised and perishable goods. Crucially, sale items ARE covered by this right – a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed: "Being 'on sale' is not an exemption." 

2. You've up to 28 days after DELIVERY to return goods. That's 14 days to cancel and 14 days after cancellation to return.

3. The refund is for the goods AND delivery charge. Though if you chose faster delivery you only get the basic cost back.

4. You aren't entitled to the cost of sending goods back. So beware if ordering from elsewhere in the European Union as returning them can be expensive.

5. If goods are faulty you are entitled to reasonable costs of return back. In this case the Consumer Rights Act comes into play.

For full information on your web return rights, see our Consumer Rights guide.