Eight rules about making returns

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 time frame 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? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben