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Christmas shoppers urged to use their rights as complaints soar

Faulty goods, misleading claims and substandard services mean Christmas presents fly back onto the shelves in January, according to new figures from Citizens Advice.

Analysis by the charity shows that people from the North West are more likely to call its consumer helpline with complaints about items such as jewellery, clothing, and electronic goods like laptops and notebooks in January than any other time of year. Overall, complaints about these goods more than doubled in comparison to the rest of the year, with a rise of 132%.

The findings come as Citizens Advice, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and Central Trading Standards Institute launch National Consumer
Week today.

Citizens Advice Halton is urging people to get to know their consumer rights as Christmas shopping gets underway. The service is highlighting how the new Consumer Rights Act, brought into effect on 1 October, can help people to shop with confidence and get their money back when things go wrong.

The top five most complained about personal goods in the North West January 2015 were:

  • Women’s clothing
  • Laptops, notebooks and tablet PCs
  • Men’s clothing
  • Televisions
  • Jewellery

Complaints were most likely to be about defective goods, or misleading claims and descriptions about their purchase.

Hitesh Patel, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Halton said:

“Many families save up for their Christmas shopping and it can be a real disappointment when their purchase isn’t up to scratch.

“Time and again we see people stuck with faulty or substandard products struggling to get their money back. We’re encouraging people to do their homework before they start their Christmas shop, so they know what their rights are and what they can do when things go wrong.”

Citizens Advice Halton is sharing a ‘Know Your Rights’ guide explaining the big changes to consumer law that Christmas shoppers should know:

Christmas shopping – know your rights

  • Check the date Everyone knows someone who starts their Christmas shopping in August – and sometimes even in January. The new rights in the Consumer Rights Act only apply to goods bought after 1 October 2015, when the Act came into force.
  • Delivery not explained? If you’re shopping online or with a salesperson who’s visiting your home, certain information including any cancellation rights, delivery charges, delivery restrictions and returns policies must all be clearly given. If cancellation information isn’t provided, this could extend a right to cancel from 14 days and possibly up to one year.
  • Want your money back? You may have tried to take a faulty item back and been offered an exchange or a credit note. Now, if you get a product that’s faulty, poor quality or not fit for purpose, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund.
  • Poor quality purchase? It can be hard to prove that something just isn’t as good as you were expecting. The new Act states that products must match the description given. If they don’t, your rights to a refund can come into play.
  • Bamboozled by the small print? In the past, terms and conditions were often tucked away in the small print. Now, important terms and conditions must be made more prominent. This makes it easier to know what you’re signing up to, and to compare contracts so you know you’re getting the best deal.
  • Can’t resolve a dispute? Resolving a dispute has been made easier. Previously consumers would often have to pay to take businesses to a small claims court to get their problem sorted. Now it’s simpler for people to go via Alternative Dispute Resolution, which uses other routes to solving disputes such as going to an Ombudsman for free.

Anyone who needs advice on goods and services they’ve purchased can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06, go online at If anyone is interested in joining Citizens Advice Halton’s volunteer team and be trained up to be a consumer champion then please ring 0151 257 2449.