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Changing your mind about something you've bought

This advice applies to Scotland

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.

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

If you bought the item from a shop

If you’ve changed your mind about something you bought in a shop, first check their own 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 they’re not used.

The shop’s returns policy might be written on your receipt, or you could check their website or call your local branch to ask. Bear in mind that 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

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 as soon as you receive your order, and there doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund.

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

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.

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.

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, eg 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.

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