What Consumer presents its top ten consumer tips to help you know your rights and stay one step ahead of the retailer. We also expose the myths relating to some of the most common consumer complaints.

1. Pay on credit card

Where possible, always pay for items over £100 by credit card. This is because if there is a problem with the item you bought, the company you bought it from refuses or is unable to give you a refund, the credit card company is equally liable to reimburse you in full.

2. The responsibility of the seller

Where an item is faulty, of poor quality or not as described, the retailer (or the trader who sold it to you) is liable, not the manufacturer. This remains the case even if you have had the item for several months and the warranty has expired. Therefore do not be fobbed off by shops who tell you to go to the manufacturer or go away entirely because it no longer their responsibility.

3. Extended warranties – are they worth it?

Extended warranties are sold aggressively on a commission basis and are largely a way for shops to extort extra money for repairs you would be entitled to anyway. Under the Sale of Goods Act and in the absence of any warranty, the retailer is automatically liable for any faults which develop within the first 6 months – and beyond if it can be shown that wear and tear is premature.

4. No refunds?

It is perfectly legal for shops to offer only exchanges or credit notes in cases where you have simply changed your mind, or the item is unsuitable. Refunds may only be given where the item is poor quality or not as described. It is unlawful therefore for a shop to display a notice saying ‘no refunds’, as this is misleading and conflicts with your statutory rights.

5. Did you keep the receipt?

Proof of purchase need not be a till receipt, it can be a bank or credit card statement, or a cheque stub.

6. Cooling off periods

Cooling off periods only apply to the purchase of certain products, those bought under certain conditions, or those bought in certain locations. The cancellation period can vary from 5 days to 45 days and you must be advised of your cooling off rights before you buy. Signing a credit agreement or a contract in the shop does not entitle you to any kind of cooling off period, unless it is an insurance product or an extended warranty.

7. I shouldn’t have to wait this long!

If there is an excessive delay with a service to be carried out or an item to be delivered, you can write to the company, giving them reasonable notice to perform their contractual obligations, in other words making ‘Time of the Essence’. If this date is not met you will then be entitled to terminate the contract and ask for your money back.

8. Junk mail and telesales

Opt out of receiving junk mail and annoying telesales calls by signing up to the mailing and telephone preference services operated through the DMA.

9. Private sales of second-hand goods

You can only claim breach of your statutory right to quality (Sale of Goods S 14) if the seller is selling ‘in the course of a business’. Therefore extra care should be taken when buying second hand items from a private seller as you will not have this protection.

10. Quote or estimate?

Generally speaking an estimate does not amount to an offer and is not legally binding. You should be clear about getting a quote rather than an estimate, as this will then become the final price as agreed as per contract.