Trying to Avoid the Christmas Rush?

During the build up to Christmas we have lots to do, and the last thing anyone needs is a problem when they’re buying presents. Follow these tips to make your Christmas buying and returning easier.

Making it easier to take gifts back after Christmas:

When you’re buying a gift, it’s useful to ask the shop to give you a gift receipt – something in writing which shows it’s a gift. This will make it easier for the person who gets the gift to return or exchange it, rather than you having to take it back. But if you buy something using your credit or debit card you’ll need to take it back yourself if the gift’s returned, for any refund to go on your card.

The retailer doesn’t have to take unused goods back by law, but they do for a limited time after the purchase if they have a returns policy. They might also allow returns as a gesture of goodwill. It’s helpful to keep the receipt or online order details to give to the person who’ll be returning the gift.

If you buy online just before Christmas, you have a legal right to cancel within a fourteen day cooling-off period, unless it’s a bespoke item or made to measure. This also applies if you buy over the phone or by mail order. Check the terms and conditions before you order to see how long you have to change your mind. The right won’t apply when you buy goods that deteriorate quickly; where you buy from a private individual rather than a business; or for a CD, DVD or software and you break the seal on the wrapping.

Shopping online:

If you buy a present online, give yourself plenty of time, just in case there are delivery problems. Read the small print so you know whether the gift can be returned later on if it’s unwanted, and check expected delivery dates.

Make sure you buy from a reputable online company and that you buy from a secure site. Check the web address begins with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.

Using a credit card where purchases cost more that £100 will give you extra protections in most cases.

Delivery problems:

Gifts ordered online, over the phone or by mail order must be delivered within 30 days, unless you agree a different delivery date with the retailer. If a present isn’t delivered on time you can cancel the order or agree another delivery date.

If your gift doesn’t arrive or arrives late, you may be able to claim compensation, but you’ll need to read the small print first – if the terms and conditions say that delivery dates are estimated or may vary, you may not be able to.

Don’t forget to leave plenty of time in case the weather takes a sudden change for the worse!

To claim compensation, write a letter of complaint to the retailer and ask them to compensate you. Tell them why you think you should be compensated and provide proof of your losses.

If the gift is lost during delivery, the retailer is responsible. If they can’t find your goods, you can ask for a refund or replacement.

The Citizens Advice service runs the national consumer help line so if you need any further advice phone 03454 04 05 06. There is also lots of advice about all of your consumer rights available from the Citizens Advice national website at

You can get more information about your local Citizens Advice by phoning the Greater Manchester Advice Line on 0300 330 1153, Monday to Friday 10 to 4pm. Don’t forget, we’re here to help you about any advice you need over the holiday period.

And of course, Merry Christmas from Salford Citizens Advice!

For more details of our service visit our website at:

Tom Togher.