Christmas returns policies: the saints and sinners

Returns and refunds

The best and worst shops for returning unwanted Christmas presents have been revealed by free online complaints service resolver.

The real saint among the big retailers is John Lewis, according to resolver, with a three-month grace period for getting a refund from returning goods bought in store or online. Goods bought from can be returned free and the delivery charge will be refunded.

It is common for stores to offer 28-day refund periods as standard but over Christmas many extend this to give shoppers extra time to return items bought well in advance of 25 December.

While no other big stores offer such a lengthy refund period as John Lewis, some retailers are extending theirs until the end of January. These include: Debenhams, Ernest Jones and Mothercare.

Several more will give refunds on returns made by mid-January, such as Monsoon (22 Jan), New Look (21st), M&S (17th) Toys R Us (16th) and Next (mid-January).

At the other end of the Christmas returns spectrum are the sinners. Online retailer is the real baddy, according to resolver. Customers have just 14 days to return unwanted gifts and have to pay for the postage.

Apple appears next on the worst offender list. Again, there are just 14 days to return goods in order to receive a refund and gifts must be in the original packaging.

Resolver also picks out Maplin Electronics for criticism. While it gives customers 30 days to return goods, a restocking fee of £10 or 20% of the price applies.

JD Sports is also on the stingy side, only issuing refunds for returns made until 5 January, and customers returning gifts bought online have to pay the postage.

James Walker, founder and chief executive of resolver, said: "Returns policies are generally set from the point at which the item is sold or - if bought online - delivered, so returning a Christmas gift isn't always easy.

"There are plenty of retailers out there with much more tricky returns policies. Some of these might be fine for ordinary purchases, but if you're buying before Christmas, you need to make sure you pick the right time."

Here are resolver's best and worst returns lists across some different gift categories:

Books: Best to worst
1. John Lewis (90 days, free returns, refund of postage)
2. Amazon (31 January & free postage)
3. Waterstones (30 days & free online return postage)
4. WHSmith (30 days & paid returns)
5. Tesco Direct (28 days, paid returns or to store)

Games & DVDs
1. Amazon (30 days & paid returns)
2. Argos (30 days & return to store)
3. Tesco Direct (28 days & paid returns but can take back to
4. GAME (28 days & paid returns)
5. HMV (21 days & paid returns)

1. Debenhams (end of January, paid returns)
2. Amazon (30 days, paid returns)
3. Boots (28 days, free returns)
4. Superdrug and House of Fraser (14 days & free returns)

1. John Lewis (90 days, free returns, refund original postage)
2. Toys R Us (16 Jan, free online)
3. Argos (30 days, free returns to store)
4. Boots (28 days & free online returns)
5. WHSmith (28 days)

Electrical goods
1. John Lewis (90 days, free returns, refund original postage)
2. Currys (return by 14 January, free postage for online orders)
3. PC World (return by 14 January, free postage)
4. Argos (return in 30 days of purchase)
5. Maplin Electronics (30 days to return, you pay postage, a 'restocking fee' of 20% of the cost of the goods applies subject to a minimum of £10).

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Your Comments

The problem is that at the end of the day the customers are paying though the back door for the generous (unneccessarily in my opinion) refund and returns options.  Who really needs 35 days to make up their mind?  I would suggest no-one, if they have got their act together.
If a retailer gets something returned on the 34th day (of a 35 day refund policy) and all similar stock is gone then they will be forced to slash the price by a huge percentage  to clear it out quickly,
...... and you can't call JD Sports mean and restrictive, after all, January 5th is still 9 days away - a long way off by any counting.

I nominate THE FUTON COMPANY as the worst company that I have ever tried to return an item to.  We bought something from them and when we got home found that it was not what we thought we had been sold.  I took it back to the shop, with the receipt and the shop manager said that she could not authorise a refund without the consent of one of the directors and they were out of the country.  Several more visits and phone calls later, we eventually received a refund.  I will never shop there again.

I recently had to return somenthing to Amazon, 360 days into a one year guarantee. They emailed me some labels which I printed off and stuck to the outside of the parcel. I then took the parcel into a pick-up shop and by the time I got home, I had been credited with the amount which was on it's way back to my bank! 
Can't complain about that!

Re the comment on Maplins that you have taken from another comany. I think you have been severely mislead. 
Over the past fifteen years I have made many purchases from Maplin and, on the odd occasion, when I have had to return an item there has never been a problem. This was and is one of the pleasures of shopping with them.
This morning your newsletter arrived and I read it before getting on with my day. I was attracted to the Saints & Sinners article as I had an item to return. It came as a great surprise to see the comment from Resolver regarding Maplins and their re-stocking fee. I had never encountered this with them before but today I had a bluetooth keyboard to return to Maplin.
The 'Maplin Pro Wireless Keyboard with Touchpad' (Website code A08NF) had been a present to me - from a loving me - but my Samsung Smart TV, although recognising it, refused to work with it.
I read the front and back of the receipt as I stood in the queue. (Maplin at Gloucester Road, Bristol) Nothing was mentioned about a re-stocking fee and I could see no notice displayed. I was all ready to stand my ground but when the chap in front of me didn't get slapped for any re-stock fee I hoped I'd be in luck. I was served by a friendly Thomas who processed my return and even asked if I'd like to try a different one or another model. 
At this point I told him about Moneywise and the unwarranted bad press they were giving Maplin. He, too, had never heard of any re-stocking fee operated by Maplin.
Upon return home I checked the Maplin website. Their T&C's for purchases, online or instore, are perfectly clear and, in my opinion, perfectly fair for a modern retailer. There are difficult times for any business and I really think that you should offer them a full and public apology. You have my login details and I am willing to send you copies of my reciepts should you wish to see them.
S Wilson