Published Tuesday, 17 January 2012
Have you ever been offered a credit note when you felt you were entitled to a refund?
Although credit notes are widely used they can cause a great deal of confusion for many consumers and retailers. Often retailers offer credit notes and consumers accept them because they are unclear of their legal rights and obligations.
As part of the Consumer Council's 'Weather the Winter' campaign, we want to help you be as knowledgeable as possible regarding the use of credit notes.
Do I have to accept a credit note if a shop offers it?
If you're returning goods that aren't faulty and you've simply changed your mind about them then you have no legal rights to a refund or exchange. By law the trader does not have to give you anything so a credit note is a reasonable offer.
If you do get a credit note watch out for the restrictions as to how and when you can spend it.
If a shop offers you a credit note out of goodwill they can place restrictions on its use. There may be a time limit on when it must be used. Another limitation could be that the credit note may not be used in a sale. You should be told of these restrictions when you are given the credit note, not at a later date when you try to use it. It would be best if these terms are written on the credit note when you receive it.
If the goods are faulty do I have to accept a credit note?
If you are returning goods because they are faulty then your statutory rights state that you will be entitled to a refund or repair. If the shop offers you a credit note, you can accept or refuse it as you wish.
If you accept a credit note for faulty goods the shop should not put terms and conditions on its use. If the shop does try to restrict its use, you can dispute this as you are not obliged to accept the credit note.
It is important to remember that if you accept a credit note you cannot change your mind later and ask for a refund or compensation, even if you had been entitled to it.
The shop has a sign saying that they only give credit notes not refunds.
If a shop displays a sign stating they only give credit notes instead of refunds, they could be breaking the law and you should report them to Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.
Is my credit note valid if it is just a handwritten note?
Some shops may give credit notes as gift vouchers or as a handwritten note. Others may just use the till receipt and write 'credit note' on it.
If you're thinking of accepting a credit note, check the conditions on it and make sure the trader has goods you want to buy.
If there is a time restriction on the credit note and it is close to the expiry date it is always worth asking the shop if they will extend this time period. However it's important to remember that items such as credit notes and gift vouchers may have reduced or even have no value if the shop goes out of business - so it's advisable to use them as soon as possible.
If you lose your credit note the shop does not have to replace it - make sure you keep your credit note safe.
Weather the Winter leaflet
The Consumer Council has put together a handy wallet sized leaflet providing key advice and telephone numbers to help consumers get through the Winter period. For your free copy please visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk or telephone 0800 121 6022 and we can post you a copy.