I want to take advantage of the deals coming up this Black Friday, but as we’re in lockdown the shops are closed. I’m a bit concerned about buying goods without seeing them first. What happens if something goes wrong, or if I change my mind after seeing something in reality? I don’t have money to lose right now.

You’re not alone being cautious about shopping online. Over the last year Citizens Advice Consumer Service has dealt with just under 123,000 cases in relation to online shopping.  

Most of the time, when you buy something online you automatically get a 14-day ‘cooling-off period’ which starts the day after you receive your order. There doesn’t need to be anything wrong with the item for you to get a refund. Many online sellers may offer more time, so make sure you check the terms and conditions before purchasing.

There are some exceptions, like buying something bespoke or perishables, like flowers or chocolates. There are also exceptions if the product is sealed, like face masks or CDs.

If you do decide to return your item, you need to tell the seller you don’t want the item within 14 days of receiving it. Once you’ve told the seller, you’ve got 14 days to send it back. The seller has to pay you the refund within 14 days from when they receive the item.

You may have to pay the cost of posting something back to the seller but you don't have to return the item in its original packaging as long as you’ve wrapped it safely. If you don’t wrap it safely and the item gets damaged, the seller can reduce your refund.

It’s a good idea to get a certificate of posting from Royal Mail when you post the item. You can use this to prove to the seller that you posted the item.

If you buy something online and the product is faulty (i.e. it’s broken, unusable or doesn’t match what was advertised), you have 30 days to ask for a refund from when you receive it. However, you can choose to accept a replacement or repair. After 30 days (and before six months) the seller must offer you a repair within a reasonable timeframe. If this isn’t possible, they must offer you a replacement or a refund. Ask the seller for the easiest way to send the item back. You shouldn’t have to pay.

If you order something and it doesn’t arrive, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you. If the seller used a courier, they should chase the courier to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.

Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is. If the seller claims they've delivered it or don't know where it is, you can ask for a redelivery. You might also be able to get a refund in some circumstances.

Check out the Citizens Advice website or contact the Consumer Service helpline on 0808 223 1133 if you need more help.

We are providing advice by phone and email Monday to Friday 10am - 4pm.  You can contact us through Adviceline: 0808 278 7806 or use our email enquiry service.  Alternatively you can contact us through webchat accessed through the Citizens Advice website.  Please click on this link for up to date information on our services.

Copyright Citizens Advice.  The advice provided in this advice column was published on 24 November 2020.  For the most up-to-date advice, please visit our Citizens Advice public siteYou can also read guidance on how the UK is affected by coronavirus on GOV.UK. This guidance from the government is updated every day.