Everything teens need to know about returning items

Everything teens need to know about returning items

In the UK, one in three customers returns a product once a month, with teens among the highest returners. Part of teaching your teen good money management is talking to them about how to get their money back when something isn’t right.


That said, returning items isn’t always as easy as it appears. Policies vary online and offline and between retailers. Some offer free returns, others ask users to pay, and then there are your teen’s consumer rights to consider. 


With that in mind, here’s everything your teen needs to know about returning items.


  1. Know your consumer rights in-store and online

  2. Understand how returns policies work

  3. Return the item(s) on time

  4. Always have proof of purchase

  5. Consider an exchange or credit note

  6. Consider credit card protection


Top tips for returning an online order

It would be logical to assume that returns are returns and that online returns have the same policy as in-store ones. The problem is they don’t, so it pays for your teens to be aware of their legal rights.

Make sure teens are familiar with the store’s return policy

Ideally, before your teen buys from an online store, they should check out (1) if the store is UK based (which affects returns) and (2) the store’s return policy. While there are statutory rights, which mean they can return items, the process between stores can differ significantly. 

  • Some sites offer free returns 

  • Others provide a return, but buyers have to pay for shipping

  • Certain stores allow buyers to exchange or refund online items in-store

  • Other online stores don’t offer exchanges/refunds in-store

  • Some online stores will offer to collect via a courier from your home

  • If your teen has an annual delivery pass, this will also allow free returns

Make sure your teen knows their online rights

When your teen buys something online, they can return it for a refund. This is because buying online means making a choice based on a photograph and description, so a product may not be suitable when delivered.  

Make sure your teen returns the item on time

Make sure your teen knows they can return any item bought online within 14 days (with an additional 14 days to send it back to the retailer). They can’t sit on it for weeks and then decide it’s not right.

Help your teen understand how the return works

Many retailers will only refund money once they have received an item back (so always get proof of purchase). Repaying the funds may also take longer (check the terms and conditions) and will always be paid back onto the card used, such as their GoHenry teen debit card, making it easy to see if the payment has come in.


Finally, look at the options for returns. Can it be dropped off at a collection point, done in-store, or can they post it? 

What if items come from a non-UK online site?

Goods bought online from sites based in Europe and the rest of the world have their own return policies. If the item was faulty, the site should replace it and pay for postage. However, this can be tricky, so consider paying for large ticket items using a credit card not a debit card for non-UK sites. Then purchases will get protection from faulty goods if the item is between £100 and £30,000. 

What if I need to return to an online marketplace?

Unfortunately, the right to an automatic refund doesn't apply to items bought using online marketplaces, so avoid auctions and these sites if you're teen is unsure of what they want.


Your teen can get a refund for an item they haven't received,  or if the item is not as described or damaged (and they weren't warned in the description). Make sure they raise a query right away. 


If they have changed their mind about an item and want to send it back, they have to ask the seller if they'll accept a return, and it's then up to them.

Top tips for in-store returns

Returning items bought in-store doesn't mean an automatic refund. This is because, unlike online goods, in-store goods are covered by different consumer rights and conditions.

Make sure your teen is familiar with the in-store return policy 

Teens need to understand that returning unwanted items in-store for a refund isn't an automatic right. 

  • Stores only have to give you a refund if the item is faulty

  • Many stores do have 'goodwill' returns policies where they will refund but not all of them

  • Most in-store returns for non-faulty items are 28 days. These may extend around busy shopping periods like Christmas

  • Check the timeline for returns whether goods are faulty or not

  • Some stores will offer an exchange or credit note only for non-faulty returns

Find out if your teen can return items to any store

Again check the retailer's returns policy before your teen heads into any store for a return. Larger retailers like John Lewis allow you to return to any store, but many stores won't let in-store items be returned via post. 

Consider an exchange or credit note

If an item isn’t faulty, retailers may have a returns policy that offers an exchange or credit note.


A credit note is a voucher issued by a business in place of a refund. It’s up to your teen to decide which to take, but stores aren’t legally obliged to give them their money back.

Have proof of purchase

This can be tricky, especially with gifts, but items must have proof of purchase to get a refund or exchange, even if the item has tags and a label. 

Plus, some retailers will only exchange an item if it is returned in its original packaging. This is especially true for trainers and toys. So keep the box your gift came in.


Finally, if a gift has been bought on a debit or credit card, the refund will be returned to the card the item was paid on. Stores will not give you cash for items paid on cards.


Related: Money management activities for teens

What are my teen’s consumer rights for returning items?

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, buyers are allowed to return an online item if they change their mind. 


In-store consumer rights fall under the Consumer Rights Act, which means buyers can return something and get a refund only if the item is faulty.

What are the usual return periods?

In-store with faulty goods, buyers must return items within 30 days, even if the store policy cites a lesser time. If an item is not fit for purpose within the first six months, the retailer needs to repair or fix it; if they can’t, they must issue a refund.


Online, buyers have 14 days to register a return and then another 14 days to send it back to the online store.

Are there exemptions where you can’t return products?

Most retailers will take back unused and in perfect condition items with their undamaged original packaging. And they have to refund you if the following are faulty or damaged and you have opened or used it:

  • Personalised items and custom-made items, for example, a sofa that arrives damaged

  • Perishable items, for example, food or frozen food that has gone off or is damaged

  • Unwrapped computer software and computer games that don’t work

  • Any item that is not fit for use or faulty

Is my teen entitled to get delivery costs refunded?

Buyers are only entitled to get delivery costs refunded when an item is faulty. Keep receipts for the postage and check the terms and conditions on how to get this repaid.


For online orders, larger companies like Amazon and Zara may not charge for returns, but smaller retailers will. Delivery is only refunded if an item is faulty.

Do they need to accept a credit note for a return?

If the item is faulty or was bought online, they are entitled to a refund. If it was bought in-store and the item is OK, that may be the store policy.

Do they have to get a faulty item repaired?

Your teen has 30 days from buying a product to claim a refund if it is faulty. After this time, buyers have to allow the retailer to repair or replace it before giving them a refund.

How GoHenry can help teach teens about money

GoHenry can help your teen expand their financial know-how beyond money basics. Aside from tracking their incomings (including monies from returns) and outgoings, Money Missions on the GoHenry app has bite-sized lessons that can teach them about more significant issues like debt, investing and longer-term financial goals.




Related articles:

Financial literacy for kids

What age can you get a debit card?

How much should teens have saved?

Budgeting for teens

Teenage financial problems

Money management activities for kids

Written by Anita Naik Published Feb 13, 2023 ● 5 min read