How to avoid Christmas present pitfalls

Carrie Snow, the American comedian is quoted as saying, ‘Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.’

Many people are attracted to the convenience of Christmas shopping online. However, a faulty or slow Internet connection can be frustrating. Beware if  you get a phone call from someone claiming to be calling from your Internet service provider saying that they have discovered a fault with your Internet connection. They may go on to ask you to switch on your computer so that they can carry out checks. However convincing they may sound (even if they have your name, your address, postcode and account number) do not comply with their instructions. They will infect your computer with a virus which will destroy your computer or even worse it access to all your personal information including bank details  If you genuinely have a fault, contact your Internet service provider using details provided on your bill or their website.

So, back to the Christmas shopping. What happens if you end up with an unwanted gift? Well, it depends on how it was purchased.

If you buy a gift in a shop or store it’s a good idea to ask the retailer to give you a gift receipt – something in writing which shows it’s a gift. This will make it easier for the person who receives  the gift to return or exchange it, rather than you having to take it back. If you buy something using your credit or debit card you’ll need to take it back yourself if the gift’s returned, so that your card account can be refunded.  While retailers don’t have to take unused goods back by law they will normally do so for a limited time after the purchase if they have a returns policy. They might also allow returns as a gesture of goodwill.

If you have bought a gift online it would be helpful to keep the receipt or online order details to give to the person who may want to return the gift.  You also have a legal right to cancel within a 14-day cooling-of period (this also applies if you buy over the phone or by mail order). Check the terms and conditions before you order to see how long you have to change your mind.

It is probably best to give yourself plenty of time, just in case there are delivery problems. Read the small print so you know whether the gift can be returned later on if it’s unwanted and make a note of expected delivery dates. Another thing worth checking is that the web address of the site through which you are buying begins with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.

Unless you have agreed otherwise, gifts ordered online, over the phone or by mail order must be delivered within 30 days. If a present isn’t delivered on time you can cancel the order or agree another delivery date.  You may be able to claim compensation – again this will be clarified in the small print.  The terms and conditions may say that delivery dates are estimated or may vary

To claim compensation, write a letter of complaint to the retailer and ask them to compensate you. Tell them why you think you should be compensated and provide proof of your loss.  Retaiilers are responsible . If they can’t find your goods, you can ask for a refund or replacement.

If you want more advice on your rights in relation to unwanted Christmas gifts, call 0344 848 7969.  Calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers. They will be included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package. You will be charged for calls not included in your landline package or if you go over your mobile allowance. Calls will also be charged if you do not have a call package with your provider.

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