£225 million worth of unwanted gifts will be sent back in the UK alone this year. In the period after Christmas, returns jump by 81% compared to their normal levels. Clothing items are the most returned (14.5% of purchases) and jewellery second at 11.8 %. And more and more of us are increasingly happy to send back items. 65% of consumers are expecting to return items bought online this year, compared to 51% just three years ago.
ParcelHero head of customer research, David Jinks MILT, says: "Astonishingly, high-street stores don't have to accept returns unless an item is faulty. But there are different rules for online purchases, which are covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations. Many shoppers are now aware that they have additional rights if they buy their items online, and they are making full use of their powers.
"People purchasing items on the internet have a 14-day ‘cool off’ cancelation period – that period is nearly up, so customers must check their invoices and act fast."
However, there are notable exceptions this year. A number of retailers are more lenient over the festive period. M&S is accepting returns on items bought after 14th September until 16th January, while BHS will return items purchased from 1st October to up to 31st January, for example.
Amazon.co.uk says it has extended its 30-day returns period so any items bought up until 31st December can be returned until 31st January.
Some items can’t be returned however, including perishables such as food and drink, as well as items such as personalised gifts, and DVDs, music, earrings and computer software with their seals broken. It’s also best to retain all original packaging, particularly if returning to a store. Perhaps the most fraught area of Christmas goods is unwanted gifts. To return these items you will need proof of purchase and the date ordered. If it was bought online you might need to ask he person who bought it to return it, to receive the benefit of the extra protections given to online consumers.
Jinks says: "Obviously it’s tricky to confess to relatives and loved ones that you would like to return their gift, but in the long run it’s better than having to wear that terrible sweater every time they visit. In the past we might have just stuck a rubbish present in a cupboard under the stairs, or try to flog it on eBay, but with more gifts being bought online every year, people are taking advantage of the cooling off period and how easy it is to send stuff back.
"Hopefully your retailer will have included a free returns label. However, if you are responsible for your own returned goods mailing, online couriers such as ParcelHero will organise a pick-up service from your house to the retailer – eliminating the need for long Post Office queues."