Changing your mind about something you've bought

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

You don’t have an automatic right to get your money back if you just change your mind about something you’ve bought and there’s nothing wrong with it.

It’s the same no matter how expensive the item was - it’s really down to the seller whether they offer you anything.

There are certain steps you can take, depending on where you bought the item and how you paid for it.

If you think there’s a problem with the item, you might have different rights.

If you bought the item from a shop

Check the shop's policy on returns.

Even though they don’t have to do it by law, lots of shops will say you can return items within 14 or sometimes even 30 days, as long as they’re not used.

Your rights are the same even if you couldn’t check or try on the item before you bought it, for example if the changing rooms were closed.

The shop’s returns policy might be written on your receipt, or you could check their website or call your local branch to ask. Shops often reduce the amount of time you have to return items bought in a sale, although you’ll still always be protected if something is faulty.

You’ll stand a better chance if you take your receipt with you and return the item in its original packaging. It’s up to them what they offer you - you’ll need to decide whether to accept it or not.

If you bought the item online, over the phone or by mail order

If you bought something from a company based outside the UK

Your rights might be different if you bought something from abroad. 

You should check the seller’s terms and conditions to find out if you can return the item. If you can return it, you should check who will pay for the return postage and if you can get the original delivery cost refunded.

You automatically get a 14-day ‘cooling-off period’ when you buy something you haven’t seen in person - unless it’s bespoke or made to measure.

The cooling-off period starts the day after you receive your order, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.

If you paid for standard delivery when you bought something, the seller has to refund this if you return it. If you chose a more expensive delivery option, you'll have to pay the difference.

Some items don’t have a cooling-off period. You won’t get a cooling-off period when you buy:

  • something that deteriorates quickly - like flowers or food

  • an item that was personalised or custom-made for you

  • anything from a private individual - for example someone from a social media marketplace or online auction site

  • a CD, DVD or software, if you break the seal on the wrapping

  • an item that has a broken hygiene seal - like earrings

If an item is being sold by a business, they need to tell you if an item doesn’t have a cooling-off period. They must tell you before you buy the item.

If an item is being sold by a private individual, they don’t have to tell you that it doesn’t have a cooling-off period.

Use your cooling-off period

You need to tell the seller you don’t want the item within 14 days of receiving it. Once you’ve told the seller, you’ve got another 14 days to actually send the item back.

You can use our template letter to let the seller know you’re cancelling. Keep a copy so you’ve got proof you sent it.

You could also phone - but make sure you make a note of who you speak to and what was agreed. It’s a good idea to follow up with a letter or email.

Sellers must give you certain information when you buy something without seeing it in person. This includes their business address and phone number, and details of your right to cancel. If you didn’t get this in writing (they’re allowed to send it by email) then your cooling off period is increased even further, to a year and 14 days.

Minimum cooling-off period

14 days is the absolute minimum cooling-off period that a seller must give you. Make sure you check the terms and conditions in case they’ve given you more time to change your mind - many choose to do so. 

How to return the item

Most sellers give instructions on how to return items, and often include returns labels with your order. You usually have 14 days to return the item after telling the seller - check your terms and conditions for how long you have.

You may have to pay the cost of posting something back to the seller. The seller should have told you who has to pay for this when you bought the item. For example, it could have been in the terms and conditions. If they didn’t tell you, they will have to refund your postage costs.

You don't have to return the item in its original packaging, but you do need to make sure it’s packaged in a way that means it doesn’t get damaged. Sellers can ask you to pay if something gets damaged because it wasn’t packaged properly.

The seller can also ask you to pay (or reduce your refund) if you’ve reduced the value of the item, for example if you wore shoes outside and scuffed the soles - but they can only do this if it’s in the terms and conditions.

If your contract says you must use the original packaging, this is likely to be considered an ‘unfair contract term’. You can tell the seller this and see if they’ll agree to accept the return without the original packaging.

It’s a good idea to get a certificate of posting from Royal Mail when you post the item - you can use this to prove to the seller that you posted the item.

The seller has to pay you the refund within 14 days from when they receive the item.

If you paid for your item through a Buy Now Pay Later provider

You’ll need to let your Buy Now Pay Later provider know you’re returning something. This is so they can stop further payments being taken from your account.

Check your provider’s website for their process of dealing with returns.

If you bought your item from a seller based outside the UK

You might have paid VAT, customs duty or delivery fees to get the item delivered. You can apply for a refund of the fees on GOV.UK.

Further help

Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 if you need more help - a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone. You can also use an online form

If you’re in Northern Ireland, contact Consumerline.

An adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice will also be able to help you argue your case or argue for you.

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