Ask LH: Can You Return a Disappointing Christmas Gift?

Ask LH: Can You Return a Disappointing Christmas Gift?
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The festive season is here, folks. And while 2020’s Christmas season is about as chaotic and ridiculous as the rest of the year, there’s still a good chance Santa will be kind to you and deliver a few gifts.

If, however, Santa gets it wrong and you aren’t super excited about what he gives you this year (hey, it happens) it’s worth taking a look at your options when it comes to returns.

According to research completed by the Salvos Store, Aussies contribute to $669 million in present wastage each year. Their data indicated that two thirds (66%) of Australians get unwanted gifts and a third (33%) of these are wasted – hence that colossal figure associated with present wastage.

Considering the state of the environment, and the financial impact 2020 has had on so many, it’s more important than ever that we try to approach events like Christmas with an intention to avoid unnecessary waste (which is why subscriptions and experiences are always a good gift choice). So, in the case that you do end up with a gift that you can’t use, don’t enjoy or one that’s plain faulty, what can you do?

I chatted with the ACCC to find out.

Here’s your guide to returning gifts:

Step one, check the gift’s returns policy:

Some retailers have super flexible returns policies that include change of mind. Be sure to check those out diligently. There are often limited time frames attached to their rules, and receipts will often be required. It can be uncomfortable to ask for a receipt when you’ve been given a gift, sure. But it’s better than leaving that item sitting in a corner, collecting dust.

If your gift is faulty, you have a right to have it repaired, replaced or refunded:

An ACCC spokesperson explained to Lifehacker Australia over email:

“Under the Australian Consumer Law, when you buy products and services they come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what you asked for.”

“Products must be of acceptable quality, that is: be safe, lasting, with no faults; look acceptable and; do all the things someone would normally expect them to do.”

If there is a case where the product you receive (this also applies to services) does not meet its definition, you can – under Consumer Law – ask for a repair, replacement or refund from the retailer. It does not need to go to the manufacturer or importer.

It’s worth noting that businesses can ask you for proof of purchase when undergoing this process, however. This can be in the form of a “GST tax invoice or a cash register or hand written receipt”, as well as a “credit or debit card statement; lay-by agreement; receipt or reference number given for phone or internet payments; warranty card showing the supplier’s or manufacturer’s details and the date and amount of the purchase; serial or production number linked with the purchase on the supplier’s or manufacturer’s database; a copy or photograph of the receipt”.

None of the above applies to change of mind:

While this can be frustrating with gifts, customer guarantees do not apply if you “simply changed your mind, found it [the item] cheaper somewhere else, decided you did not like the purchase or had no use for it”.

The ACCC spokesperson also clarified that guarantees do not apply if you “misused a product in any way that caused the problem” or “knew of or were made aware of the faults before you bought the product”.

What do I do in cases like these?

Double-check the gift retailer’s return policy. But if you have no wriggle room, it may be worth looking into either selling your product (with full transparency of its condition, of course) or donating it. Tossing a gift into the trash because of a difference of opinion is a colossal waste, so let’s try and avoid that – yeah?

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