Returning Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Whether it’s a Christmas jumper that doesn’t fit or a gadget you’ll never use, chances are at some point you’ve received a present you don’t want. But there’s no need to let an unwanted gift go to waste – this article explains how to return it, sell it, regift it or just give it away.

I’ve been given a naff woolly jumper I’ll never wear that was bought in a store – can I just return it?

Legally you’ve no right to return items bought in stores, unless they’re faulty. Many shops do have their own return policies, which means that you may be able to return it and get a refund, exchange or credit note. If they do, this is a voluntary goodwill gesture offered at the shop’s discretion – it’s not a legal right.

I didn’t buy the present. Assuming the store allows returns, can I take it back?

Return rights, only apply to the person who actually paid for the item, and you’ll usually need a receipt to prove it. If you have a gift receipt or the present-giver got the shop to write on your receipt and the store’s copy of the receipt that it was a gift, eg, “bought as a gift for Ste”, then having this should help to at least exchange the item – though unless it’s faulty, there’s no guarantee as you’re at the whim of the store’s own returns policy. There is no harm in asking. If the item is faulty, you should be able to return as the gift receipt transfers the buyer’s legal rights to you.

But what if it was bought online and I don’t want it? Do I have more rights?

If your gift was bought online, over the phone or by mail order then the good news is the person who bought it has additional return rights under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Essentially, they have 14 days after they receive their order to notify the seller that they intend to return the item and get a full refund – and if they choose to do this, they then have a further 14 days after notifying the seller to actually return the item.

So even if there’s nothing wrong with the item and you just want to get something else, they can return it. (There are some things you can’t return though, including perishables and personalised items)
If it’s a present you got that isn’t faulty and you just don’t want it, you as the recipient have no rights in law. Even if the retailer does let someone other than the buyer return it, you’ll still have to go via them as any refund would go back on to the original payment card and any exchange would likely be delivered to the same address.

If it is faulty see this Consumer Rights guide.

I don’t have a receipt. Do I absolutely need it?

The receipt’s the proof the item was bought in that store, so it’s definitely worth trying to get it from the person who bought the present. But some shops allow you to return goods without a receipt, so again, it could be worth a try.

Can I get a refund or only an exchange?

If you’re returning an item that’s faulty, the buyer can get a full refund if they return it within 30 days (though it’s safest to do it ASAP). After, the store’s obliged to provide a repair or replacement item in the first instance – though of course it may choose to offer a refund you if you ask. If not faulty, it’s up to the store (unless it was bought online, where the buyer has more rights).

Do I need the card the item was bought with?

You may find it difficult because some shops will only process refunds via the same payment method – so, if your Nan bought that scarf on her debit or credit card, it won’t be possible to give you cash for it. You may have to settle on exchanging the item or getting a credit note.

It’s not looking too good, is it? What about this jumper – I like it, but it’s too big for me. Can I exchange it?

Set out formally, your legal rights may seem limited, but the reality is that in practice most shops are more lenient if you’re only asking for an exchange. In fact, after Christmas many retailers actually extend these policies to allow more time for people to return gifts in January. It varies between stores, so it’s worth checking.

This sounds like a hassle – can’t I just regift it to a niece/friend/auntie?

Absolutely. This is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way of disposing of an unwanted gift. It might be a good idea to keep a drawer or cardboard box in your wardrobe for such gifts and make it your first port of call before you buy anything new. Just make sure you don’t give it back to the person who gave it to you in the first place. Putting a tag on it when you receive it will help prevent any future regifting embarrassments.

If I can’t get a refund, exchange or credit note, what are my options? Can I sell it?

Yes, this is an excellent option. Flogging your unwanted presents is a good way of converting them into cash without offending anyone.

You can try selling items on eBay, local Facebook selling groups and other sites such as Gumtree – but bear in mind that in January lots of people will be doing the same, so prices can dip.

This is a lot of effort to sell it, what’s the best way to give it away?

Charity shops are crying out for unwanted and duplicate gifts and you’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling for doing something good. Or alternatively you could always list the item on Freecycle / Freegle or other giving sites


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