Consumer Rights on Refunds

by Frances Burks ; Updated July 27, 2017

States have similar laws to protect consumers' rights to receive refunds for purchases they make when the merchandise or services they buy fail to meet their expectations. Your state Department of Consumer Affairs should have specific information on consumer refund rights in your area. However, one of the best ways to protect your rights is to find out about a company's refund policies before you make a purchase.

Refund Policies

Refund policies are largely determined by retailers. A "New York Daily News" article titled "Refund Rights" says retailers are only required by law to make their return policies known to customers before they make purchases. However, that may only require, as it does in New York City, posting a sign near a cash register or store entrance that cites how or if customers can receive refunds. The city also requires retailers to abide by a customer's refund requests for 20 days after she makes a purchase if refund-policy signs aren't posted inside a store.

Warranties

Consumers have refund rights under warranties as well. According to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, warranties guarantee that customers receive merchandise as it's represented to them. For example, a 100-percent wool sweater should be made entirely of wool instead of some other material. A buyer has the right to receive a refund if it's not made entirely of wool. Furthermore, a warranty entitles a consumer to a refund or other compensation if a product's quality or condition is misrepresented. Warranties don't have to be written to be valid for consumer refunds. An unwritten warranty takes effect as soon as a retailer shows a sample of a product or describes it to consumers.

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Final Sales

Stores can refuse to accept returns if a sign is posted that clearly states all sales are final. Yet the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation notes on its website that a retailer can't refuse to accept returns on defective items when customers are unaware of the defects. In such cases, customers can choose to request a refund or ask that the damaged merchandise be repaired or replaced by the retailer.

Door-to-Door Sales

Federal and state laws protect customers' refund rights when door-to-door sales are at issue. According to the New Hampshire Department of Justice, people who buy goods or services through door-to-door sales or at any place outside of the seller's regular business location have a right to receive refunds within three business days after a purchase is made. Reputable companies that sell goods and services door-to-door, at trade shows and other locations should readily inform you of your right to a refund and give you specific directions on how to request a refund.

About the Author

Frances Burks has more than 15 years experience in writing positions, including work as a news analyst for executive briefings and as an Associated Press journalist. Burks has banking and business development experience, and she has written numerous articles on consumer issues and home improvement. Burks holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan.

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