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For many happy returns... ...comply with the CRA

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA), “customers may be entitled to a refund, replacement, repair and/or compensation where goods they purchase are faulty, not as described, or don’t do what they are supposed to do.” This applies whether the goods are purchased at full price, in a sale, or second hand. As for returns, Matthew Gough, partner at Eversheds Sutherland, adds that “consumers have up to 30 days to reject goods and get a full refund if they are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described.” 

But what happens when a consumer returns a faulty item after 30 days? If it’s within six months of purchase, and it can’t be repaired or replaced, Gough says that consumers would be entitled to a full refund in most cases, “with the onus being on the business to prove that the item was not faulty.” Beyond that period, between six months and six years, if the goods do not last a reasonable length of time, he says that a consumer may be entitled to some money back, but they must prove that the fault was present at the time of purchase and the goods should have lasted.

These rights also attach to goods purchased online, over the phone or by post. In instances of distance selling, Gough says the seller is also responsible for covering the costs of returns. He adds that in addition, “the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 provide customers with the right to reject goods for any reason and get a full refund during the 14-day cooling-off period after receiving the order.” Retailers must tell their customers of this right; failure to do so could lead to the right to cancel being extended to up to one year instead of 14 days.”

Gough says that pharmacies can take solace in that “save for the cooling-off period applicable to distance selling, customers are not legally entitled to a refund just because they change their minds about a purchase.” Similarly, there is no automatic right to return goods, for example, where a consumer has bought something in-store that is the wrong size or where an item is an unwanted gift, unless provided for by the pharmacy’s own returns policy.

In essence, if the item is not damaged or faulty, is as described and does what it is supposed to do, a customer will not have a legal right to return it. In addition, when buying online there are also a number of exceptions where customers are not entitled to return the goods within the cooling-off period unless they are faulty. These include goods that are personalised or custom-made, perishable, or sealed on delivery but have been opened, such as perfume.

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