John Lewis lifts limits on returns

30 March 2011

John Lewis customers can now bring back unwanted items beyond the standard 28 days that most retailers allow for returns.

Items must still have labels and tags attached or be in perfect condition and customers need to show proof of purchase.

John Lewis will then refund or offer an exchange to the customer and this applies to items bought in store, as well as on its website

A common misconception is that the customer has the right to return shop-bought items simply because they don't like them; however, while most retailers will allow this, provided they see proof of purchase, this isn't a legal requirement.

Under the sale of goods act, by law consumers can return items if they are not "fit for purpose", "not of satisfactory quality" or "don't match the retailer's description."     

Rights differ slightly with online shopping where consumers are given a seven-day "cooling off period" to return items. The thought behind this is that because you haven't touched or seen the item it may not be as you'd imagined or more simply if it's an item of clothing it might not fit. In these circumstances customers don't need to give a reason.

John Lewis' unlimited returns policy therefore sounds very generous, so how do the other major department stores compare?


The home and kitchenware store is the only retailer to match John Lewis. Its Lakeland guarantee promises customers it will offer a full refund with "no fuss" and no time limit. Customers don't have to specify a reason beyond being unhappy with their purchases.

Marks & Spencer

Customers can return unwanted items for exchange or a full refund up to 35 days after the purchase, provided a valid receipt or online order is shown.

Without proof of a receipt, a customer can still get a refund based on the last known price of the item.


Returns are accepted within 28 days, on proof of purchase. Without this Debenhams will offer an exchange only, based on equivalent value of the current selling price. Online refunds will simply be credited onto the payment card.


Customers have 28 days to return unwanted items either online or in store, with proof of purchase. If returning online and using BHS' courier service you must do so within 14 days.

House of Fraser

Both in–store and online purchases are subject to a 14–day returns period. If customers fail to return within this period, but do so within 28 days, they can still receive a gift card or eVoucher to match the item's value.


Remember that a number of products will be excluded from retailers' returns policy. These typically are:

Food, drink and other perishable goods

Personalised and customised items

Unsealed CDs and DVDs

Items that cannot be reused for hygiene and health reasons, such as swimwear, underwear, earrings and bedding.


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