Spring clean your finances by brushing up on your consumer rights

Telford & Wrekin Council Trading Standards are urging local people to 'know their consumer rights' to avoid losing out financially.

Spring clean your finances by brushing up on your consumer rights

A survey released today by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) reveals that consumers in the West Midlands region, on average lose £4,509 each in their lifetime on faulty goods they have failed to take back to the shops.

The research was undertaken as part of the 'Know Your Consumer Rights' campaign, a joint initiative by BIS, Consumer Direct, Trading Standards Institute (TSI) and Consumer Focus to make sure shoppers get a fair deal.

The findings reveal that more than half of West Midlands shoppers surveyed (57%)* have at least one faulty item at home they wished they had exchanged or had refunded, with over one third (34%)* possessing up to five faulty items. On average consumers in the West Midlands fail to take back £71 worth of faulty goods a year.

Fear is playing a major part in stopping shoppers from returning goods and from getting a fair deal. Shoppers have the right to return faulty items, but many stores allow returns for unwanted goods even if you have just changed your mind.

Yet (30%)* of West Midlands shoppers surveyed feel nervous when they try to return an unwanted item to a store and 36% feel embarrassed (23%)* or intimidated (13%).*

Other highlights from the survey are:

  • Londoners are the most anxious shoppers with more than half (55%)* feeling nervous when taking back an unwanted item;
  • consumers in the North West are the least nervous (27%).*

Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said: "We want to do all we can to encourage consumers in the West Midlands region not to lose out financially because they don't know their rights.

"Now is the time to brush up on your consumer rights so you can return any faulty or unwanted goods with added confidence."

Councillor Miles Hosken, Cabinet Member for Community Protection and Cohesion, said: "If goods are faulty you have the legal right to a refund if you act quickly, but many people feel intimidated at a checkout and will avoid taking items back, instead buying the item again meaning they pay out twice. It is better to tackle the checkout armed with the right information so that you have the confidence to request a refund."

The Know Your Consumer Rights Campaign highlights the following Top Tips to consider when returning goods:

  1. Returning it to the retailer - when you buy goods, your contract is with the retailer not the manufacturer and you should always go back to the retailer in the first instance to request an exchange or refund. If you have a manufacturer's warranty you can contact them as well as the retailer. And don't delay - act as soon as you discover the fault.
  2. No receipt required - you do not need a receipt to obtain a refund for faulty goods. However, you may be required to show proof of purchase with a credit card slip, bank statement or cheque stub.
  3. Check at the checkout - although you do not have the legal right to take back goods just because you've changed your mind, many stores do offer a 'no questions asked' refund or exchange policy. Check the store policy when you buy.
  4. Online is fine - if you buy goods on the internet, you have the same rights as if you were shopping on the high street. In addition, you have the right to a seven day 'cooling off' period from the date you receive the goods, with the right to a full refund regardless of the reason for return. Remember though that this doesn't apply if the goods were personalised for you, or are not in the same condition as when they were delivered.

To find out more about your consumer rights visit Consumer Direct at www.consumerdirect.gov.uk or call 08454 04 05 06