Can I claim postage costs for returning goods?

Jo Carlowe / 15 January 2019

A vacuum cleaner isn't performing as well as expected, but if the buyer returns it, will the seller refund the postage costs?



Question

I bought a vacuum cleaner online. It works, but isn’t very good so I’m returning it. The purchase price will be refunded when the vacuum cleaner is received, but the seller’s site says return postage costs will only be refunded if the product is faulty. Postage is £13.20 – am I entitled to claim this back?




Answer

This is a tricky one because ‘not very good’ could mean the vacuum cleaner is sub-standard, or simply that it’s not to your taste. If the former, then you should receive return postage, if the latter, then it’s unlikely.

Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, if you buy goods online, you have the right to cancel at any time and without reason, up to 14 days from the day you receive the goods. You will then be entitled to a refund. This includes costs of delivery assuming the cheapest method was used, explains Antony Di Palma, a solicitor with DAS Law.

However, it doesn’t include costs of return postage — unless the trader has stipulated this in their terms and conditions.

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The exception is when goods are faulty or fail to meet the standards set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Under this Act products must be: ‘of a ‘satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’, and ‘as described.’

‘Fit for purpose’ and ‘as described’ are easy to understand, but ‘satisfactory quality,’ is problematic because not all of us have the same standards. In law, it means ‘what a reasonable person’ would be happy with.

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“If the goods are not of satisfactory quality within the first 30 days, the consumer would be entitled to a full refund and the retailer would have to cover any postage costs,” says Peter Stonely, lead officer for Civil Law for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). “Satisfactory quality means a standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory taking account of any description that might define quality such as secondhand or shop-soiled, and the price.”

So what if you dub the vacuum cleaner ‘unsatisfactory’ but the retailer disagrees? To prove your point you’d have to go to the small claims court, or seek mediation. For the sum of £13.20 you are out of luck. Court fees start at £25, which means you are out of pocket even if you do win back postage.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.