Senior couple exchange a gift

What are your rights when returning a gift?

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Whether something is the wrong size, you already have one or you simply don’t like it, there are all sorts of reasons to return a gift. 

But, whether you can return an unwanted gift yourself, and what you can exchange it for, is another matter. We’re exploring what your rights are so that you know where you stand if you have a gift you’d rather return.

Only the person who bought the gift has a right to return it

Technically, only the person who bought the gift has a right to return it. This is because the sales contract is officially between the retailer and the original buyer. So, to return a gift, you’ll usually need to get the person who bought it involved.

If this thought fills you with dread, you’re not alone. But if you handle the conversation carefully, you can get something you really want without hurting anyone’s feelings. Tactful honesty mixed with acknowledging their kind and thoughtful gesture could be a good approach to try!

If a gift is faulty, you’re entitled to a refund if you return it quickly

Under the Consumer Rights Act, you’re entitled to a refund if a gift is faulty, as long as you return it within 30 days of purchase. After that, you’re entitled to a repair or replacement from the retailer for six months. If the gift comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, you may be able to get a partial refund, repair or replacement beyond this.

Your rights around faulty gifts don’t only apply to brand new items. The Consumer Rights Act applies to items bought second-hand from a shop, too.

You’ll usually need a gift receipt or proof of purchase to get help with a faulty gift. Some retailers may help you without these things. But, if you want to guarantee a refund, repair or replacement, you’ll need to get the receipt from the person who bought the gift.

You have different rights depending where the gift was bought

If you want to return a gift that isn’t faulty, then your legal rights are different depending on where the gift was purchased.

If a gift was bought in-store, you have no legal right to return it

If your gift was purchased in-store, then you have no legal rights that entitle you to return it under the Consumer Rights Act. You’ll only be able to return items bought in-store if the retailer has a returns policy – which most do.

This is because, in theory, you have the chance to look at an item, try it out (depending on the item) and make sure it suits your needs before you purchase. If you buy something and later realise it doesn’t fit, or doesn’t do everything you thought it did, then that’s on you.

If a gift was bought online, you can return it within 14 days for a refund

Unlike in-store purchases, online purchases are governed by different regulations – the Consumer Contracts Regulations. These regulations are more generous about returns and allow you to return an item for virtually any reason within a certain timeframe.

You have 14 days after receiving the order to tell the retailer you plan to return it, and a further 14 days to then return the item. Officially, this needs to be done by the person who bought the gift.

Most retailers have generous returns policies – especially after Christmas

Some retailers will do the bare minimum. Many others go above their legal obligations and offer generous returns policies. Common retailer returns policies include:

  • Allowing a longer period for returns at peak gifting times like Christmas
  • Giving you the opportunity to exchange an item for something else of the same value (or more if you pay the difference), even if you don’t have proof of purchase
  • Offering gift vouchers or credit notes as an alternative to refunds on gifts
  • Allowing you to return items bought online to a store location

However, it’s important to remember that retailers offer a returns policy voluntarily and at their discretion. Different retailers will have varying policies and they could change at any time. So, it’s a good idea to check before you return anything, but especially gifts. 

Your options if you can’t – or don’t want to – return a gift

Sometimes it’s not possible to return a gift. For example, if:

  • The gift is perishable, like food or flowers
  • Packaging has been removed or damaged
  • The item is personalised or made to order
  • The gift can’t be returned for hygiene reasons

Or, you may simply not fancy facing a tricky conversation with the person who bought you a gift you don’t want! Whatever the situation, there are a few things you can do with gifts you can’t return:

Re-gift it

If you’re given something that isn’t right for you but would be perfect for someone else, re-gift it! Re-gifting no longer comes with stigma around seeming cheap. In fact, it’s now more often seen as a savvy tactic to save money and avoid waste. Just be careful you don’t re-gift something back to the person who gave it to you!

Sell it

Selling unwanted gifts could be a good way to recover some of the value of them. Facebook Marketplace, Vinted, Depop and eBay are all popular options with low fees. However, selling on these sites isn’t completely effortless – you will need to put in the time to create sales listings and respond to queries from buyers.

Give it away

If all else fails, you can donate unwanted gifts to charity shops or otherwise give them away. This way, they’ll still go to a good home!

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

Author Profile Image: Helen Fox

Helen Fox

Personal Finance Editor

Helen is a personal finance editor who’s spent 11 years (and counting!) in the finance industry. She creates content on everything money with the goal of getting people thinking – and talking – about their finances in ways they may not have done before.

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