The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

What You Can Do if You Change Your Mind about Goods You have Bought

Do you have any right to return non-faulty goods?

There are times where the problem with a product is not that it is faulty, different from its description or any of the other common problems with goods, but simply that you realise afterwards that you do not really want it.

Unfortunately, there is no law which allows you to return an item you have bought simply because you have changed your mind about it. Many shops offer returns policies which will allow you to get a refund, exchange the item for something else or receive store credit which will allow you to buy something from them at a later date; however, they are under no obligation to do any of this. Check your receipt or the company’s website to see if they have a policy like this, or simply ask in the shop.

The exact terms of a returns policy can vary from shop to shop, but each shop is required to obey the terms of their policy if they do have one. The usual terms of a returns policy will specify a time period during which you must return the item (often 28 days), and in many cases you will need a receipt or other proof of purchase if you want to make full use of the policy.

Distance selling and returns

If you have changed your mind about something that you have bought on the internet, ordered from a catalogue or purchased in any other manner which meant you were not able to examine the product in person beforehand (known as “distance selling”), you have additional consumer rights regarding returns which are more favourable to you. These rights also apply if you have bought something from a seller who was operating somewhere other than on their businesses premises – for example, a doorstep seller.

Once you receive goods bought in this way, you have 14 days to decide whether or not you want to keep them. You also have 14 days after signing up to a service at a distance during which you can cancel it. You can find out more about this on our Consumer Contracts Regulations page.

Cancelling a product or service you have ordered

Sometimes you may change your mind about goods or services that you have ordered but not yet received. Your right to cancel your order in these circumstances will depend on whether you are considered to have made a “firm agreement” with the trader.

You do not have to have signed a contract in order to have made a firm agreement; any strong indication that you wanted the supplier to provide the goods or services in question will likely mean that you have formed a contract with them. If you do not think that things have gone this far, you can simply contact them and let them know that you no longer want the item or service in question. Follow this up with written confirmation and get proof of postage so that you can demonstrate that you have done so. This should allow you to cancel without being charged anything.

If you have done anything which could be considered making a firm agreement with a trader, such as paying a deposit or agreeing upon a delivery date, your options are more limited. Even if you do not have a written contract, the law still considers you to have made a contract with the trader, and failing to keep up your end of the deal may mean you are found in breach of contract and could have legal action taken against you.

There is still a possibility that you will be able to cancel if you have made a firm agreement with a trader. There should be certain terms and conditions under which they have agreed to supply the product or service to you, and these might include cancellation rights. The terms and conditions should have been supplied to you in some form when you made the agreement.

Your cancellation rights under these terms and conditions will likely not come without a catch. You may have to pay a cancellation charge or lose any deposit you have paid. Usually this is simply something you have to accept, but if you feel that the cancellation charge or the cost of the deposit was excessive, or that other terms of your cancellation rights were unfair, you may be able to challenge the terms of the contract.

Unfair contract terms are those which unreasonably favour the rights of the trader over the rights of the consumer. For more about unfair contract terms and advice on challenging them, have a look at our page on contract issues.

Other legal topics that may interest you