Why is this important?
If you change your mind about buying something
This page tells you what your options may be if you’ve changed your mind about something you bought or ordered from a shop.
If you bought at a distance, such as on the internet or over the phone, or on the doorstep, you are given more cancellation rights.
Returning goods to the shop
If you bought something in a shop and want to return it they may let you do this if you have proof of purchase. Every shop will have its own rules about returns. You should check with the shop, or details may be printed on your receipt.
Cancelling an order for goods
You may have ordered something face to face at a trader’s premises or in a shop. For example a sofa or kitchen. Whether you can cancel your order depends on whether or not you have made a firm agreement with the trader.
Have you made a firm agreement?
It’s likely you’ve made a firm agreement to buy if you’ve:
- signed an agreement, or
- agreed a delivery date, or
- paid a deposit or the full amount.
Once you’ve made a firm agreement with a trader, you have a legal contract with them, even if there is nothing in writing. Check the terms and conditions of your contract to see if you have any right to cancel the agreement. You should have been given the terms and conditions when you made the order and it may be on your order form or receipt or in a leaflet. Or you can speak to the trader directly.
You may have to pay a cancellation charge. If you feel the cancellation charge is so high that it’s unfair, you could challenge it. You should see whether it’s possible to negotiate a lower charge with the trader.
If you don’t have a firm agreement
If you don’t yet have a firm agreement with the trader, you can change your mind without having to pay anything. Contact the trader immediately to say you don’t want to buy the goods any more and confirm this in writing. Keep a copy of the letter and ask for a free proof of posting certificate from the post office.
Getting your money back when you cancel
If you have paid for your order and are allowed to cancel, the trader should refund you the money, less the cancellation charge if there is one. If you paid for the item on a card, the trader will normally only refund the money onto the same card, rather than give you back cash.
If you have paid a deposit, the trader may refuse to return it. You could challenge this if you feel that the deposit was more than the trader needs to compensate them for any loss caused by your cancellation. But in most cases, deposits are seen as a way of protecting the trader against cancellation. So, even if you took the trader to court, it’s unlikely you’d get your deposit back.
If you paid by cheque, you might want to stop the cheque. Think very carefully before doing this, as it could mean you're breaking your side of the agreement and the trader could sue you for the money. However, if the trader has already broken the contract in such a serious way that it is no longer valid, you would not be in breach of contract for stopping the cheque. This might happen, for example, if the trader had failed to provide the goods you ordered at all. If the trader tried to take action against you in these circumstances, you would be able to make a counter claim against them.
It is a criminal offence to hand over a cheque if you intend to stop it later, although this can be difficult to prove.
You should always try to negotiate with the trader. If the trader is a member of a trade association, the association may be able to help you in your negotiations.
Unfair cancellation terms
Sometimes, contracts contain terms about cancellation which the law says are unfair. For example:
- a term giving the trader wide cancellation rights but not giving you the same rights would be seen as unfair
- a term which makes it very difficult for you to end a contract. For example, a term making you pay high termination charges.
If a contract term is legally unfair, you can't be forced to stick to it. If you think a term in your contract is legally unfair, you should get further advice.