Most shops will allow you to return goods you don't like - but there are certain conditions
If it was bought in a shop or market – anywhere face to face – you can only demand your money back if the item is faulty or not as it was described. So a kettle that doesn’t work or a blouse labelled size 10 that is clearly size 22 can be taken back for a full refund, even if it was in the sale and marked 'no returns'. Many shops will simply offer to exchange it or say it is the manufacturer's problem. Remember: you have the right to a refund. Insist and report traders who refuse to the local trading standards office.
But you cannot ask for your money back just because an item doesn’t suit you or you’ve got two already. Of course, most shops will allow you to return goods you don't like and get if not a refund then certainly a credit note or other goods to the value. But do it quickly and of course keep them in perfect condition, with boxes and labels, and you will usually need the receipt.
If the item was bought online within the EU then your rights are much greater. First, the item must arrive within 30 days or the deal is off and you can get a full refund including any postage you paid. Again, the vendor might try to foist you off on the Royal Mail or delivery firm. Don't let them.
If the item does arrive within 30 days but is broken or faulty or not as described you can get a full refund and the postage costs. If it arrives and you decide within seven days that you do not want it – for any reason – then you have the right to a full refund, though normally you will have to pay the postage both ways. However, if the original contract did not specify that, then the vendor has to pay for postage too.
These rights also apply to eBay even though auctions you attend in person are exempt from them.
These 'distance selling' rights apply to physical goods – anything the postman brings. But they do not apply to intangibles such as a holiday, a flight, a hotel booking or a concert ticket. With those you don't get a seven day cooling-off period, though of course if they are faulty, or fail to provide the service, you have the right to your money back.
If your purchase was from outside the 27 countries of the EU then your rights are far fewer. There will not be a cooling-off period if you just do not like the item. Most decent vendors will replace broken or faulty goods. But you cannot make them. Then you have to fall back on your credit card or debit card provider and claim the money back from them.
* Read Paul Lewis's money articles every month in Saga Magazine.