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Online shoe seller's policy is to allow returns within fourteen days of purchase at buyer's expense if the shoes have their tags on them and are not worn outdoors.

I received mine tried them on and a friend said that the only way to really know is to try walking in them on the street so I took off the tags and then went out with them for about an hour's outing.

I then found that they didn't fit and then went online and consulted the seller's return policy finding that I'd already violated it.

Is the return policy statutorily valid and am I now stuck with keeping the small shoes?

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  • 16
    It sounds like a good argument for reading all the terms and conditions prior to ordering, evaluating or attempting to return merchandise. Your recourse might be to show that those terms were not available to you at all until you attempted to make a return - and thus you could not have been bound by them. Jun 1 at 22:18
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    It also seems to me a reasonable person should know that shoes worn outside aren't sellable as new, and thus a full refund would not be appropriate. It's likely the seller would have to just throw the shoes away, wasting all the costs that went into making them.
    – Reid
    Jun 2 at 14:00
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    I ordered shoes from a company (in the US) which were way too small. I returned them for the next larger size (which were still too small) and got charged $15 re-stocking fee. I found out that the company had a reputation for small shoes. Their size 12's were not even as big as everyone else's size 11's. I argued that by deliberately undersizing and misrepresenting the shoes, so that they made an extra $15 on every purchase, was a scam. The company caved and I got my $15 back.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 2 at 14:25
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    @jwenting: As you yourself note, sizing differences are very common. Hence, a return & purchase of the next size is entirely expected. The scam part is charging $15 for something that is entirely expected. Now, charging a $15 fee if you don't buy the next size could be reasonable.
    – MSalters
    Jun 2 at 16:21
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    @jwenting This sizing difference was at least 3 standard deviations from the norm. The product was grossly misrepresented, and given the number of similar complaints, the company is well aware of the problem. And well aware that it makes $1000's per year in "restocking fees." That makes it a scam.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 2 at 17:03

3 Answers 3

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Since you bought these online the Consumer Contract Regulations are going to be in effect here (if the price of the goods was over £42 anyway), (legislation)

Where your cutting the tags off and wearing them outside for an hour comes into play is that would probably be considered "excessive handling" and they might be able to make a deduction from the amount of the refund.

Your business can make a deduction from the value of the goods if you consider the customer has handled the goods excessively. You can’t deduct monies from the refund simply because the goods have been removed from the packaging or because the goods have been tried on or checked.

In essence, distance selling purchasers are entitled to handle goods in the same way that they would in a normal retail store. That therefore includes touching the item or trying it on.

Since no retail store is going to let you cut the tags from a pair of shoes and walk outside for an hour in them I'd say that test is probably met here. How much can they deduct? As the CCR puts it (emphasis mine):

(9) If (in the case of a sales contract) the value of the goods is diminished by any amount as a result of handling of the goods by the consumer beyond what is necessary to establish the nature, characteristics and functioning of the goods, the trader may recover that amount from the consumer, up to the contract price.

Which is likely where the "saleable condition" aspect is coming from - if they aren't in a condition where the retailer can sell them on they've essentially lost their full value. If the retailer makes returned goods available for sale on the site at reduced prices (like the "Amazon warehouse" deals) then a deduction of the difference in sale price between that and full retail is more likely.

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    There are plenty of retail stores that allow you to try running shoes outside - possibly not for an hour but from 10 or 20 minutes. Removing tags is more problematic but they can easily be reattached with the right equipment.
    – Dale M
    Jun 1 at 21:49
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    @JosephP. I didn't read it fully, but the legislation linked my motosubatsu mentions £42 twice. I guess those in government are Douglas Adams fans? Or it's a coincidence. Jun 2 at 4:03
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    @DaleM I'm in the UK and I have literally never encountered a store here that would let you go outside in shoes before buying them. Jun 2 at 6:14
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    @motosubatsu how can you tell if runners fit if you don’t run in them?
    – Dale M
    Jun 2 at 9:03
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    @DaleM But how can the store tell you're going to come back to pay and not do a runner?
    – TooTea
    Jun 2 at 10:38
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The online retailer may argue that you diminished the value of the shoes beyond what was necessary to judge them because you wore the shoes outside and removed the tags.

The relevant law is the The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/3134/contents

Right to cancel 29.—(1) The consumer may cancel a distance or off-premises contract at any time in the cancellation period without giving any reason, and without incurring any liability except under these provisions— ... (b)regulation 34(9) (where value of goods diminished by consumer handling); ...

Reimbursement by trader in the event of withdrawal or cancellation 34.—(1) The trader must reimburse all payments, other than payments for delivery, received from the consumer, subject to paragraph (10). ...

(9) If (in the case of a sales contract) the value of the goods is diminished by any amount as a result of handling of the goods by the consumer beyond what is necessary to establish the nature, characteristics and functioning of the goods, the trader may recover that amount from the consumer, up to the contract price.

(10) An amount that may be recovered under paragraph (9)— (a)may be deducted from the amount to be reimbursed under paragraph (1); ...

Imagine if you did have an absolute right to a total refund. You could have brand new clothes for no cost other than your time ordering and returning them. The retailer would bear the costs of buying the items in the first instance, processing your orders and returns, and restoring the returned items to a saleable condition.

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  • Note that retailers are not obliged to trade with customers. Hence, "Imagine if you did have an absolute right to a total refund." - and imagine the seller would simply refuse to trade with that customer again. Not an option if you sell brides dresses, of course - you wouldn't expect return customers anyway. But Amazon definitely could.
    – MSalters
    Jun 2 at 16:27
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Assuming the question relates to a consumer as defined in the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA):

The Act provides a new definition for consumer, which means "an individual acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that individual's trade, business, craft or profession" (Section 2(3), Act.). This is wider than the previous definitions found in UK and EU law, as individuals may still be classed as consumers if they are acting "mainly", rather than "wholly" for non-business purposes.

The other two answers here don't bring up the CRA, which is definitely relevant.

Simon Stokes, an English solicitor with a CPE from London Metropolitan University and LLM from Cardiff University, wrote

Note however that consumer rights law consolidation is not complete under the CRA – important provisions of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 remain and the complicated law which gives consumers cancellation rights in respect of “distance contracts” (among other things) remains in place under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (“Consumer Contract Regulations 2013”). So consumer law remains complex.

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  • Okay, so let's accept that we are talking about such a consumer as in the CRA... Then what?
    – Joseph P.
    Jun 2 at 22:08
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    @Joseph. Apology for my lateness. I am very busy right now. I shall write a full answer if I get the chance. If you need an urgent answer, ask old.reddit.com/r/LegalAdviceUK.
    – user
    Jun 11 at 9:37
  • no worries at all.
    – Joseph P.
    Jun 11 at 10:59

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