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Be a clever Christmas consumer

Your consumer rights changed on 1 October 2015. Be a clever Christmas consumer - make sure you understand your new rights when buying and sending things this Christmas.

Follow these ten consumer tips and have a safe, stress free holiday period.

Know your new consumer rights

The new Consumer Rights Act came into effect 1 October 2015. It’s worth understanding what your new consumer rights entitle you to before you buy, particularly if you are shopping for expensive items that you haven't bought before. Visit our know your new rights page for more information.

Be smart about your Christmas cards

Cards longer than 25cm, wider than 16.5cm, thicker than 5mm or heavier than 100g need a costlier Large Letter stamp. If you use the wrong stamp the recipient may have to pay a surcharge for incorrect postage. If sending cards in coloured envelopes, write the address on a white label.

Be careful buying from online sellers

If you’re buying from an individual seller on an online marketplace, many of your consumer rights don’t apply. Items should be as described, but a private individual has no legal duty to inform you of any faults or to offer a cancellation period. Read the product description and the seller’s return policy carefully.

Fair terms not hidden in the small print

The Consumer Rights Act states that terms and conditions must be prominent, so important terms hidden in the small print may not be compliant. Check for hidden extras or any additional costs in any credit agreement or contract. Check for information on delivering goods or missed deliveries of goods.

Protect your items

Prevent damage in transit with padded envelopes or bubble wrap. Send valuables with insured services like Royal Mail’s Special Delivery service so you can claim compensation if your item is lost or damaged. For more general items up to £20 request a free Certificate of Posting from the Post Office.

Send second class

Second class post is more cost effective and has a better delivery record at Christmas - if you plan ahead second class is far more likely to be delivered in three working days than First Class is in one working day. If you have a specific issue with sending or receiving letters or parcels this Christmas find out how to sort out problems on our problems with post page.

Return faulty goods within 30 days

The short term "right to reject" enables you to return goods to a trader within a 30 day period for a full refund if your core rights have been breached. The burden of proof will be on you to prove that the goods are not satisfactory, fit for purpose or as described.

Returning online gifts

You can return most goods that you order online for up to 14 days after you received them for a full refund. You’re allowed to handle and inspect what you’ve bought before returning, but the trader may deduct some money from your refund if you’ve used the product.

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.

The seller has to refund the cost of standard delivery for the item. If you chose a more expensive delivery option, you’ll have to pay the difference.

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 or if you’ve reduced the value of the item.

Don’t leave posting to the last minute

The last Royal Mail posting dates for sending signed for items in time for Christmas are Saturday 19 December, second class and for Special Delivery Wednesday 23 December. Royal Mail will not be delivering or collecting post on Christmas Day, Saturday 26, Sunday 27 or Monday 28 December. To see a full list of last posting dates visit Royal Mail.

Use the Citizens Advice consumer service

The consumer service can advise on consumer problems or give pre-shopping advice to reduce risk. Phone 03454 040506  (Welsh-speaking adviser 03454 040505) Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm, except Bank Holidays. You can also email queries through our website.