Covid-19 Returns and Refunds: Your Rights and the Situation Explained

Every January, many of us head to the shops to return or exchange Christmas gifts which appear to be faulty or were purchased in the wrong size. Due to current coronavirus restrictions however, only essential retailers can remain open, leaving many consumers wondering how to return or exchange their purchases.  

Paul Martin, UK head of Retail at KPMG suggests that: ‘The early stages of the pandemic saw retailers having to react quickly to a unique set of circumstances’ and thankfully this current stage of the pandemic has seen a similarly quick reaction from many retailers with regards to their returns and refunds policies.

Considering the current situation, many stores are offering an extended returns windows or are choosing to honour refunds on items purchased before Christmas once they reopen.

High Street Examples

The John Lewis website for example, states that:

‘You can return unwanted items that were purchased between 8th October and 24th December until 28th January 2021. However, if your nearest John Lewis shop is temporarily closed due to government guidance, you can return items up to 35 days after the shop reopens.’

Many retailers have adopted similar policies including Marks and Spencer, who have made adjusments to their normal returns policy. Any non-sale purchase made in Marks and Spencer between 4th October 2020 and 31st December 2020 may be returned up until 28th February 2021, according to the latest information on their website.

Oftentimes, items purchased on sale are subject to different returns policies than full price items. However, returns policies on sale items have also been altered by some retailers including Marks and Spencer who are offering a 30-day return on sale items, for purchases made from 24th December online and 27th December in store.

New policies vary from store-to-store so it is important to check individual websites in order to find out the most up to date returns policies. It is also worthwhile reaching out to the retailer if you are unable to return or exchange an item due to self-isolation or shielding to check if they will be flexible in these circumstances. 

Benefits of Flexibility for Customers and Businesses

Updated returns and exchange policies are beneficial for both customers and retailers alike. Not only does it enable customers to exercise their consumer rights but extending returns windows helps retailers keep their staff safe and comply with current Covid-19 workplace guidelines.

Many retailers are running with significantly reduced staffing levels as well as advanced hygiene protocols so may require a few extra days to process returns and exchanges. This however, should not affect your consumer rights; If an item is faulty you have a right to return it within 30 days, irrespective of the store returns policy. If you need any further information on your consumer rights, check out our Knowledge Centre for more details.

With lots of us currently choosing to shop online, many stores have not only altered their returns policy for pre-Christmas purchases, but also for items bought online during the current restrictions. John Lewis have also extended their returns policy for orders made between 1st January and 24th February 2021, with consumers now able to return items up until the until 31st March 2021. Before venturing online to take advantage of the January sales, it is a good idea to check out the latest refund and returns information issued by retailers to ensure you aren’t caught out. have put together a few of our top tips to keep in mind when returning an item or making a new purchase. 

  • Always check the returns policies of individual stores as each may vary.
  • Before making any new purchases, check the current returns policies
  • If you are shielding or self-isolating then contact the retailer directly to see if they will still honour the return, once it is safe for you to do so.
  • Make sure that when you choose to return your items you comply with the current coronavirus guidelines and laws in your area.

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