Accepting returns and giving refunds: the law

Last updated: 13 March 2017

You must offer a full refund if an item is faulty, not as described or doesn't do what it's supposed to.

Check when you have to offer refunds and accept returns on the Business Companion website.

When you don't have to offer a refund

You don't have to refund a customer if they:

  • knew an item was faulty when they bought it
  • damaged an item by trying to repair it themselves or getting someone else to do it (though they may still have the right to a repair, replacement or partial refund)
  • no longer want the item (eg because it's the wrong size or colour) unless they bought it without seeing it

You have to offer a refund for certain items only if they're faulty, eg:

  • personalised items and custom-made items, eg curtains
  • perishable items, eg frozen food or flowers
  • newspapers and magazines
  • CDs, DVDS and computer software they've unwrapped

Customers have exactly the same rights on refunds when they buy items in a sale as when they buy them at full price.

Online, mail and phone order sales

Online, mail and telephone order customers have the right to cancel for a limited time even if the goods are not faulty. Sales of this kind are known as 'distance selling'.

You must offer a refund to customers who buy through distance selling if they cancel goods within 7 calendar days of receiving them.

You must then refund the customer within 30 days. They don't have to provide a reason for cancelling.

Repairs and replacements

If a customer has 'accepted' an item, but later discovers a fault, you may have to repair or replace it. The customer can still reject the item after it's been repaired or replaced.

A customer has accepted an item if they've:

  • told you they've accepted it (having had enough opportunity to inspect the item before confirming they've received it)
  • altered the item

You'll have to agree to a repair or replacement if a customer returns an item within 6 months - unless you can prove it wasn't faulty when they bought it.

Businesses may require customers to prove the item was faulty when they bought it if they ask for a repair or replacement after 6 months of purchase.

Customers have up to 5 years to make a claim for an item they've bought from you.

Warranties and guarantees

If a customer has a warranty or guarantee, this doesn't affect their right to free repairs or a replacement.

This means if a customer's guarantee or warranty has run out, you may still have to repair or replace the item.

Proof of purchase

You can ask the customer for proof that they bought the item from you. This could be a sales receipt or other evidence such as a bank statement or packaging.

Items returned by someone other than the buyer

You only have to accept returns from the person who bought the item.

Penalties for displaying notices

It's illegal to display any notice that deliberately misleads consumers or deceives them about their rights - for example, a sign that says you don't accept returns or offer refunds.

Read more about consumer protection from unfair trading.