Your statutory consumer rights with regard to the purchase of clothing and footwear can be found in the Sale of Goods Act. They refer to standards of quality and consumer expectations, and what you should do if these are not met.

Your statutory rights

Any item of clothing or pair of shoes you buy should be of reasonable quality, with no damage such as missing buttons, holes, stains etc. The items should be fit for the purposes intended – i.e. hiking boots should be tough and strong, and should also be exactly as described – if a rain mac is described as waterproof, it should be exactly that!

Any breach in your statutory rights

If any of the above are not the case, there has been a breach in your statutory rights and you would be entitled to a repair, a replacement or a full refund. Remember your port of call is always the shop or retailer – you should not be referred to anyone else and they cannot tell you it is no longer their responsbility. For most things, shops would usually allow you to exchange the item or give you your money back straight away. However, if the damage is minor and can be repaired easily, within reasonable time, at no additional cost to you and without causing any significant inconvenience, then the shop can insist on this as a first option, although this will not stop you from taking it back if the repair is unsatisfactory or there is something else wrong with it.

Where a refund is the only option, but you would like to keep the item anyhow, you are quite within your request a discount on the price paid.

Proof of purchase?

Shops will often tell you they will only give a refund on production of proof of purchase. Don’t be mislead into thinking this must be a till receipt. It can be a bank or credit card statement, although you may run into difficulties if it is for a different amount than that of the item you are trying to return.

If the item is damaged, then strictly speaking you don’t need your till receipt. However, it is always recommended you have it, to show that it was bought relatively recently and the damage wasn’t caused by continued use or wear and tear over time.

Where you have no rights
The following are common situations, but do not require the shops to do anything:

  • You simply changed your mind or the item was not appropriate due to colour, size or style
  • If you buy something expecting it to be a size 14, but it clearly isn’t your size, this does not mean you can get a refund, although you can usually exchange it or get a credit note.
  • If the item of clothing is dirty and the mark can be removed by washing, this is not the same as damage and shops are not obliged to give you any discount

Buying seconds or damaged items

If you are buying seconds, you are still entitled to an item of clothing which is undamaged and fully wearable. If you knowingly buy a damaged item of clothing or footwear, the specific defect must be pointed out to you before you buy, and although you cannot then return the item on the basis of that defect, it does not mean you cannot return the item if you discover something else wrong with it – even if they have reduced the price. Don’t let the sales assistant tell you otherwise!