News story

How to be savvy when doing your Christmas shopping

BIS conducted research as part of the ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign with Consumer Focus, the OFT and Consumer Direct. The research showed…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


BIS conducted research as part of the ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign with Consumer Focus, the OFT and Consumer Direct. The research showed that many are still uncertain of their entitlements, and three-quarters of UK consumers don’t know that they have an extra right when buying online - shoppers have an extra 7-day cooling off period for most purchases.

It is important that consumers should know their rights in the run-up to the festive season - it is predicted £6.4 billion will be spent online alone over Christmas, up from £5.5 billion in December 2009. However, recent research from Which? has shown that returns and refunds policies are not widely known or considered when making a purchase.

Customers should be able to buy goods that:

  • FIT THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN - Goods have to conform to the descriptions given to them
  • BE OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY - You have the right for the goods you buy to be safe, work properly and be free from defects
  • BE SUITABLE FOR A PURPOSE - Anything that is sold to you must be capable of doing what it’s meant for.

Consumer Minister Edward Davey said:

“There has been a huge revolution in how people buy goods and we are now Europe’s biggest online shoppers, so it’s important we all know what our rights are, both on and offline. What I want are confident consumers who can stand up for their rights and get a good deal. This is especially important when times are tight and everyone wants to make sure they have value for money.”

The ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign is being supported by B&Q, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Trading Standards offices distributing nearly 400,000 leaflets, with ASDA giving out nearly 20,000 Christmas posters with their deliveries.

Michele Shambrook, Operations Manager for the OFT-managed advice service Consumer Direct, said: “As Christmas approaches, people are looking for value for money - a savvy shopper that has done their homework before hitting the shops will not only be able to pick up the best bargains but will also be able to resolve any problems with their purchase quickly.

“If things do go wrong, the Consumer Direct website can help you find out what your rights are and gives you advice on what steps you can take to secure a replacement, refund or get the item fixed.”


1. Online is fine - if you buy goods on the internet, you have the same rights as if you were shopping on the high street. In addition, you have the right to a seven day ‘cooling off’ period from the date you receive the goods, with the right to a full refund regardless of the reason for return. Remember though that this doesn’t apply in some situations, for example if the goods were personalised for you, were perishable, or are not in the same condition as when they were delivered.

2. Returning it to the retailer - when you buy goods, your contract is with the retailer not the manufacturer and you should always go back to the retailer in the first instance to request an exchange or refund. If you have a manufacturer’s warranty you can contact them as well as the retailer. And don’t delay - act as soon as you discover the fault.

3. No receipt required - you do not need a receipt to obtain a refund for faulty goods. However, you may be required to show proof of purchase with a credit card slip or bank or credit card statement.

  1. **Check at the checkout **- although you do not have the legal right to take back goods bought on the high street just because you’ve changed your mind, many stores do offer a ‘no questions asked’ refund or exchange policy. Check the store policy when you buy.

To find out more visit

Notes to editors:

  1. The BIS research was conducted by One Poll, who interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 adults aged 16+ from across the UK, online between 5 - 8February 2010. One Poll abides by the Market Research Society code.

*The online spend research is from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

**The online retail sales data was taken from the Retail Sales Statistical Bulletin, January 2010, ONS.

  1. Goods and services bought online, by telephone, or through other forms of distance selling are subject to the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000. In most cases, if you don’t like the goods or have changed your mind, you can cancel the order within a seven working day ‘cooling-off’ period without needing to give a reason for the cancellation.

To cancel your order, you must tell the seller in writing - by letter, fax or e-mail. If sending a letter, send the letter by registered post, so you can prove that you sent it and track its progress. If you have already paid for the goods or services, the seller must refund your money as soon as possible and within 30 days of you cancelling the agreement.

  1. Consumer Direct is the government-funded telephone and online service offering information and advice on consumer issues. Consumer Direct is managed by the Office of Fair Trading and delivered in partnership with Local Authority Trading Standards Services.

  2. The ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign is part of a major joint initiative launched by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, Consumer Focus, the OFT and Consumer Direct to make sure the public know how to get a fair deal when shopping and to make sure they know what to do if things go wrong. This is the final stage of the campaign.

  3. The estimated total-spend for 2010 is £57.8 billion, up 16% from £49.8 billion in 2009.

  4. For more information on Which? research on unwanted gifts, visit

  1. BIS’ online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See []( for more information.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone




Name Olivia Campbell Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 5363 Fax



Published 18 November 2010