Consumer Watch with Candice Evans: Advice on the annual post-Christmas gift return ritual

Candice EvansGeraldton Guardian
Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumers have certain rights in relation to gifts.
Camera IconUnder the Australian Consumer Law, consumers have certain rights in relation to gifts. Credit: Mix and Match Studio / 500px/Getty Images/500px Plus

With the season of giving now over, many consumers will be considering returning their unwanted Christmas gifts or putting their new gift card in a drawer to spend later.

Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), consumers have certain rights when it comes to gifts that are faulty, unsafe, not as described or were not delivered in time.

If a gift is faulty, unsafe or not as described, Australian retailers must offer a remedy such as a refund, replacement or repair, even if it was on sale.

Generally though, proof of purchase is required, such as a receipt or credit card statement from the gift giver. Some retailers may offer a refund or credit without proof of purchase as a gesture of goodwill, but this not a requirement by law.

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If you plan to return unwanted gifts such as a toy your child may already have or a shirt that doesn’t fit properly, this is considered to be a “change of mind”, which falls outside of the ACL. In this situation, retailers are under no obligation to offer a refund, store credit or exchange, so it is best to check their return policy.

If returning a gift, the original packaging should be included where possible unless the gift was faulty or breaks after use.

If you received a gift card for Christmas, make sure to check the expiry date. By law, a minimum expiry period of three years is required on most gift cards. Three years is a long time though, so consider using it before you put it in a drawer and forget about it. You also can’t be certain the retailer will still be around in three years time.

Finally, if a gift failed to turn up in time for Christmas, you may be entitled to a remedy but it is best to contact the retailer to resolve the issue first before lodging a complaint with Consumer Protection.

If post-Christmas consumer issues can’t be resolved with the retailer, you can lodge a formal complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

Candice Evans is senior regional officer for Consumer Protection in the Mid West and Murchison

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