Consumer rights all shoppers should know - plus how to get a refund

Be sure to understand your consumer rights before you shop in this year’s sales

Woman complaining on the phone after receiving a broken item in the post
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s crucial that shoppers know their consumer rights in the event that something goes wrong.

This year millions of families are feeling the pinch due to rising household bills and many are concerned about how to save money for Christmas. As a result, more households will be on the hunt for even bigger bargains, with research showing that Brits are set to spend £4 billion in the Black Friday sales this year. (Read our Black Friday battle plan for some top tips to avoid overspending.)’s Money Editor, Sarah Handley, says: “As the cost of living continues to spiral, many households will be using the Black Friday sales to grab essential items and Christmas presents at bargain prices. However, before you start shopping, it’s important to understand your consumer rights so that you don’t get caught out if you need to return something.” 

What are my consumer rights?  

Your consumer rights protect you when you buy goods and services. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, any product, physical or digital, bought online or instore must meet the following standards: 

  •  Be of satisfactory quality (not faulty or damaged) 
  •  Be fit for purpose  
  •  Be as described.

If an item does not meet the above standards, you’re entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. Many retailers will also accept returned goods if you’ve simply changed your mind, but this will be a gesture of goodwill, not because it’s a requirement by law.

Exactly what you’re entitled to depends on when you return the item. Scott Dixon, consumer rights expert at The Complaints Resolver, explains: “The Consumer Rights Act gives you a short-term right to reject goods within 30 days if they are faulty, no questions asked. 

“Once the 30 days have elapsed, you are entitled to a refund/repair/replacement within the first six months and the onus is on the retailer to prove that the goods were not faulty when sold. After six months, you are entitled to the same options but the onus is on you to prove that the goods were faulty when sold.”

After 30 days, you must give the retailer one opportunity to repair the faulty item or replace it before you can get a refund.

Note that the 30-day right to a refund does not apply to digital content, but you can ask for it to be replaced or repaired if it develops a fault. If this is not possible or successful, you can ask for a price reduction instead.

The rules are slightly different for orders placed online too. Consumer expert at review site BrandRated, Jenny McCormac, says: “You’re more protected when shopping online, rather than instore. You have the right to cancel your order and get a refund within 14 days, even if you’ve already received the goods and there’s nothing wrong with them, and you’ll have a further 14 days to return the items to the seller.” 

The Consumer Rights Act also applies to services, such as those provided by a bank, healthcare provider or restaurant. In this case, any services should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable price.  

Do my consumer rights still stand during a sale like Black Friday?

Your consumer rights are the same in sales like Black Friday as at any other time. 

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer champion, says: “Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, items must be of satisfactory quality, match the description, last a reasonable length of time and be free from defects. However, if a fault is pointed out at the time of purchase and therefore part of the reason for a reduction in price then you would not get a refund.”

Many retailers will also not accept sales returns if you’ve simply changed your mind.

How can I get my money back? 

If you need to get your money back, check the retailer’s terms and conditions carefully so that you know where you stand. If you’re returning an item instore, the returns process will be quicker if you have the receipt with you, but you still have the right to a refund without the receipt if the item is faulty.

If you are returning something because you don’t like it and have lost the receipt, the retailer is under no legal obligation to refund you, but might offer an exchange or credit note. 

If you’re returning items online, check and follow the returns process carefully - you can find this on the retailer’s website. You might have to pay postage if the items you’re returning are not faulty.

What if I bought an item that is now in the Black Friday sale?

If you’ve bought an item that has since plunged in price, you’re not automatically entitled to a refund for the difference. However, if you bought the item online and it was delivered within the last 14 days you can inform the retailer you want to send it back, return it, and buy it again at the new price. 

Consumer expert Jenny McCormac also told us: “Some brands and stores will offer a price match promise, where they will refund you the difference if the price of an item falls shortly after you’ve purchased it, usually within a period of 7 to 28 days.”

These brands include:

  • - if the price of a product drops on the site or you find it cheaper elsewhere within 7 days of receiving your order, you can ask for the difference to be refunded. 
  • Currys - if you find your item cheaper elsewhere within 7 days, you’ll be refunded the difference.  
  • Halfords - if you find the item cheaper elsewhere you'll be refunded the difference within 14 days of receiving your goods. 

 John Lewis shoppers can also submit a price drop refund request within 35 days of buying an item through the retailer, but only if the price has since dropped at John Lewis, not elsewhere.  

What can I do if the retailer refuses a refund? 

If the retailer refuses to give you a refund and you bought the item with a debit or credit card, you might be able to claim the money back through a scheme called chargeback. 

The Complaints Resolver’s Scott Dixon says: “You can enact a chargeback within 120 days with your bank / credit card provider and cite 'breach of contract' under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.”

Alternatively, if you bought an item costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 on a credit card, you’ll have legal protection through Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means your card provider and the retailer are jointly liable if something goes wrong with your purchase and you should be able to claim your money back. 

If you’ve explored all avenues and still had no luck, BrandRated’s Jenny McCormac says: “You can speak to the Consumer Ombudsman who will aim to resolve your dispute within 10 working days. In more extreme cases, you can take the seller to a small claims court, but this can be expensive.” 

Rachel Wait
Personal finance expert

Mum of two, Rachel is a freelance personal finance journalist who has been writing about everything from mortgages to car insurance for over a decade. Having previously worked at Shares Magazine, where she specialised in small-cap stocks, Rachel developed a passion for consumer finance and saving money when she moved to She later spent more than 8 years as an editor at price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, often acting as spokesperson. Rachel went freelance in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and has since written for numerous websites and national newspapers, including The Mail on Sunday, The Observer, The Sun and Forbes. She is passionate about helping families become more confident with their finances, giving them the tools they need to take control of their money and make savings. In her spare time, Rachel is a keen traveller and baker.