Eight rules about returning products that you need to know

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Have you ever wanted to return a store item, only to be told by the retailer that it needs to be in its original packaging and accompanied by the purchase receipt? The fact is, it is not always necessary to follow such rules.

Jessica Ip, from parcel delivery service CouriersPlease, says it is important for consumers to understand their rights when they are returning items.

“As a consumer, you have automatic rights – called consumer guarantees – after you purchase a product or service,” Ms Ip explains.

“For instance, you have the right to receive a refund on an item if it doesn’t match its description or receive a repair or replacement if the product is faulty.”

Here are some other rules around shopping returns that you may not know about.

The customer isn’t always right
Contrary to the popular saying, retailers are not required to provide you with a refund for every return. For example, the consumer guarantees – such as the consumer right to return an item that doesn’t match its description, receive a repair or replacement for a faulty product, and the right to cancel a service if it doesn’t offer the desired results– do not apply if you simply have a change of mind, find a cheaper alternative or find you no longer need it. In these instances, retailers are not required to right the wrong or offer a remedy.

No receipt? No problem
Legally, you do not need to provide a cash register receipt to return a product. As long as you can prove the item was purchased from that store, you are entitled to a full refund. Proof of purchase can include a credit card statement, a lay-by agreement, or a confirmation or receipt number from a phone or online purchase.

You don’t need a warranty card to return a faulty item
Warranties are sometimes issued to shoppers when purchasing electronics or whitegoods. However, you are entitled to a repair or replacement regardless of whether they have a warranty. In addition, depending on the state, your rights under the consumer guarantees do not have a specific expiry date and can apply after the product warranty has expired.

Free repair, replacement or refund?
If you return a product with a minor problem within a reasonable timeframe, retailers must offer a free repair. This only applies to products bought after 1 January 2011 and the timeframe depends on the product and retailer. If the problem can’t be fixed, the retailer must provide a refund, a replacement or offer to absorb your costs for getting it fixed elsewhere. However, for a major problem – such as a product being unrepairable, not matching the description, or being unsafe – you should be given the choice of a replacement or a refund.

Original packaging is not necessary
Many store policies say that retailers can only accept returns if the product is still in saleable condition, which often means that it needs to be in its original packaging. When you return an item, you do not have to return it in the original packaging in order to get a refund, given that it meets consumer guarantees. This means that you are eligible for a refund without the original packaging in instances where you received the wrong size, colour or if the product is faulty.

You are not entitled to ‘change of mind’ refunds
It’s common to see store policies offering refunds and exchanges for a change of mind (or if you bought the wrong size or colour). However, not all retailers are legally obliged to offer this. This means that ‘no change-of mind refunds’ or ‘no change-of-mind refunds after seven days’ rules are acceptable as part of a store’s policy.

Unlawful signs are not allowed
Stores must only display signs that reflect consumer guarantees. Signs such as ‘no refunds’, ‘refunds on unworn items only’ and ‘we only offer credit notes’ are considered unlawful. Retailers are allowed, however, to display signs that are a little restrictive, but more reasonable, such as ‘we offer refunds and exchanges for change of mind up to 30 days’.

Used items or products without tags can be returned
If you unknowingly purchased a faulty product, you have the right to return the item and receive a refund – regardless of whether you have worn or used it or removed the tags and labels. This is to accommodate for negative events related to a fault that occur after a sale, such as a missing button from loose stitching or the dye running after washing.

Have you ever had a retailer obstruct your right to a consumer guaranteed return? How did you handle the situation?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 15
  1. 0

    Why do many online stores only give credit notes. Surely that is unlawful according to above statement.

    • 0

      Unless the product you bought is not fit for purpose or is not as advertised the shop doesn’t have to give you anything and it doesn’t matter what sign they put on the counter.

      And if you have returned something because it meets the criteria mentioned, then you do not have to accept a credit note but are entitled to a full refund.

  2. 0

    This practice should be tightened up.

  3. 0

    Had an incident where I returned a cheap device for uscrewing lids. I decided to take it back as it didn’t work and buy a more expensive one. I was immediately asked for a receipt for this $7-95 item. I told them I didn’t have it and was told thaey couldn’t refund me. I pointed out the price tag was the same as the ones in their shop and asked why would I bring it back to a shop I hadn’t bought it from when I could easily take it back to the shop I did buy it from. Then another assistant put her two bobs worth and tried to stonewall me. I immediately put into action what I do with all these people, I slowly raised the tone of my voice, incresing it gradually so other customers would become aware of their crap service. Not being rude, just increasing the volume. I then asked for the manager and was told he was out for lunch and I said I would return and left the device on their counter. On my return I saw the shop assistant point me out to the manager who walked over to me and without a word opened the till and paid me. I then walked out and bought a new device for a lot more money, which I would have spent at their store if they hadn’t been so stroppy. At the time Ihad my young teenage daughter with me and when we left for lunch I told her if she felt uncomfortable she didn’t have to come back to see the manager if she didn’t want to. She wanted to come back and I think it gave her an insight into being assertive with these uncooperative people.

  4. 0

    Yes, I’ve returned and had replaced a microwave and a dishwasher. In both cases I was told by by the store I would have to contact the manufacturer. When I pointed out that the ACCC told me it was the retailer’s responsibility the items were replaced immediately.

  5. 0

    I recently purchased in store items of sale from Myers. The sales person warned me that I could not return any of the items.
    This was OK this time as the items were for me. However with Xmas coming I am really going to think carefully about purchasing gifts.
    Myers has a marketing ploy of discounting most of their products. Does that mean, for the most part, nothing can be returned?

    • 0

      Rosret, It doesn’t matter if the item was bought on sale or not. If is is not fit for purpose then you are entitled to a refund/replace/repair – the same as if you had paid normal price.
      Do NOT let them say otherwise!

  6. 0

    I recently had the misfortune to purchase a 65″ TV from a major online store, that recently featured on the Choice Shonky awards. TV was faulty (found this out within first week), but dealing with them was a total nightmare. Refused to believe item was faulty, said I would have to pay to return it from Brisbane to Melbourne, they would check for any faults, (and who could trust their check?), if no fault found, they would return it to me at my cost. Or, if I didn’t want it back, they would charge me a 20% restocking fee, plus only give me a credit to be used within 30 days. I paid for an independent tech to check TV who found it was absolute junk. Still no luck, so to Consumer Affairs. Funny how it was all sorted within 48 hours. They arranged pick up, and refunded cost of TV, plus tech appraisal, within 4 hours. Their customer service was appalling, and am sure they work on the rule to be as unhelpful as possible, hoping people just give up and go away. It is important to know consumer rules, and stick to your guns.

    • 0

      Sounds like Samsung! They have the worst customer service of any company.
      Doesn’t matter what you are buying they give you the run around. Most people would have put it in the ‘too hard’ basket, bought a new different brand TV. This is what they count on.

    • 0

      Sounds like Kogan! I ordered a tablet computer from them a month ago only because it was the only store with this particular model. I was told delivery one to two weeks. Still waiting!

  7. 0

    Almost a month ago I ordered a click and collect from Rockmans, ladies fashion store. After 2 weeks of not receiving my items I contacted the customer service number. I waited a considerable amount of time to get through to someone. I was told out of the 3 items that had been ordered 1 was not available but the other 2 items would be delivered to the store on 16th October. I was told that a refund would be processed for the 1 missing item and that could take 3 to 5 days. I visited the store on 16th to collect my order only to be told it hadn’t been delivered! I returned to the store a week later to complain and they sent an email to their head office to try and get the matter resolved. I was contacted by a representative later that afternoon and was told that a refund would immediately be prosessed to my account and an email sent to me confirming that. A few days later I returned to the shop and asked if they could contact their head office again as I still have not received the email or refund! Yet another week has passed and still no refund! I was advised that the click and collect service had been experiencing glitches but I am at a loss how that excuses such poor service. I have tried numerous times to contact the stores customer service number and head office and have been unable to speak to anyone, left numerous messages. Any suggestions on what to do next?

    • 0

      Return to the store, ask to speak to the manager, make sure you get her name. Tell her that if you do not have either your items or a refund within 48 hours you will be going to Fair Trading to file a complaint. Also tell them that due to their messing around, you will NOT be going into the store to collect your items but expect them to deliver- free of charge.

      If you do not get items delivered then make an official complaint to Fair Trading. [ask Fair Trading to also add on any bus fares/petrol charges you have incurred due to having to go into store]

      I take it you still have the email sent to you after purchase with dates /prices etc on it.

  8. 0

    The 12 month company warranty is the bare minimum. The Trade Practices Act says that the product is warrantable for a reason able period of time. A reasonable period depends on the price and normal life expectation of the product. I bought a $1,000 camera. Three years later it completely failed and I was given an estimate by the company of $400 to fix it. When I asked for this charge to be waived I was told the 2 year warranty had expired. I asked their marketing people that if they offered their cameras for sale as having only a 3 year limited lifespan would they sell any? So under the law three years is within a reasonable period for the camera to function. They agreed but said that model camera was no longer available so would I except the latest professional model? How could I refuse?

  9. 0

    Hi Jaycee. I have spoken to the manager last Wednesday and she emailed head office then. The woman I spoke to later that afternoon advised me she would process an immediate refund. On Friday when I returned to the shop to advise no refund had been received again the manager sent an email. I have now come back from the shop after speaking to the assistant manager and advising still nothing has been credited to my account! Another email has been sent by them. I asked them to ring the head office while I was there and told they have no way of contacting them except by email! I will definitely be getting on to Fair trading and lodging a complaint! I feel that they are being totally deceitful over the whole thing. They know that I haven’t received the goods so keeping my money is tantamount to theft on their part!



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