Despite the best intentions of the gift-givers, some Christmas presents have to be returned.

Whether it's clothing that's the wrong size, you've received two of the same thing, or something is damaged or faulty, you might have to take a trip back to the shop it came from.

Here's everything you need to know about your rights when returning a gift:

Christmas presents under the tree
Christmas presents under the tree
 

I have an unwanted present — what do I do?

Unless the present is faulty or damaged the shop has no legal obligations to allow you to return or exchange the present — but most stores do have a 'good will' returns policy, offering an exchange, refund or credit note.

BUT it's important to check if any time limits apply — many retailers stipulate that you must return non-faulty goods within 28 days of purchase.

When buying gifts, ask about returns — or check the receipt or store website.

What if my present was bought online?

Different laws apply to online purchases — Consumer Contracts Regulations. Under this law you have the right to return goods within 14 days of delivery, no questions asked. So if you don't like a gift, you can ask the person that gave it to you to return it for you under this rule.

What if a gift is faulty?

The Sales of Goods Act 1979 states that goods must be i) of satisfactory quality, ii) fit for purpose and iii) as described. If you receive a present that is faulty or damaged, it could breach all three of these legal requirements and the retailer has a legal obligation to accept the return.

Are there any presents that can't be returned?

There are some presents that cannot be returned,  unless they are faulty or damaged, or if the retailer allows a return as a matter of good will. This applies to both online and in-store purchases.

These include:

  • CDs and DVDs
  • Software
  • Personalised gifts
  • Fresh food
  • Flowers
Don't have the receipt? Don't despair
Don't have the receipt? Don't despair
 

What if I don't have the receipt?

Retailers have a policy of not accepting returns, even if goods are faulty, without a receipt. But this doesn't mean no receipt, no return — you just need proof of purchase. Bank or credit card statements can prove purchase. Most stores offer gift receipts making it easier for people to return gifts — if you can't get a gift receipt, write 'bought as a gift' on the normal receipt and ask the sales assistant to sign it, so it will be easier for the recipient to return the gift if they need to.

What if the packaging is damaged?

Most retailers state in their returns policy that returned items must be in their original, undamaged packaging. This can be an issue when people are tearing open presents on Christmas Day — and while some shops might be sympathetic to the enthusiasm of a child tearing open a box, many won't. If you think a gift may need to be returned, consider taking it out of the original packaging and wrapping it separately so it can be returned in the undamaged box/packaging if necessary.

What to do if retailers say:

  • "Sorry, we can't accept the return as we think you caused the damage/fault..." — Never accept this, especially if you're returning a gift within six months, as an assumption is made during the first six months that the goods were faulty from the date of purchase.
  • "As the goods were bought at a discounted price you can't return them..." — If your present is damaged or fault it does not matter if it was purchased in a sale, the retailer must accept the return.
  • "You will have to contact the manufacturer and take up the issue with them as the goods are faulty..." — This is wrong too — the correct person to take this matter up with is the retailer. You might have to get the person who bought the gift to do this for you.

The new Retail Ombudsman launches on January 2, and consumer champion Dean Dunham has been appointed as the chief ombudsman. For more information, visit the Consumer UK website or the Retail Ombudsman website.