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How to Return Faulty Goods: Know Your Rights and Get Your Cash Back

We put together this article to give you everything you need to know about returning faulty goods and get your money back from retailers.
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Why is it that you always get the broken one? There’s nothing more heart-breaking than opening that new Xbox, only to have it boot up onto the black screen of death. Now what? You aren’t liable for defects on goods that you purchase, so how do you get your money back?

Fortunately, it’s possible to get your cash refunded, or a replacement product from the supplying retailer. In most cases, you’ll need proof of purchase, but you shouldn’t have any issues with your refund.

Still, it’s a good strategy to understand your consumer rights. If a retailer decides to argue your case for a refund, knowing your consumer rights will help you navigate your way through the situation. We put together this article to give you everything you need to know about returning faulty goods.

Return and Refund Policies Explained

A retailer’s returns and refunds policy will inform customers about the terms and conditions relating to returning goods. In most cases, the retailer will list its terms and conditions on every sales agreement, i.e., till slip or invoice.

The policies cover the timeframe to return goods, the costs involved with refunds and exchanges, and the requirements from the customer for refund or replacement of the goods. The policy will also clearly explain if the customer if the refund is store credit or the return of the purchase price to the customer.

Refund and return policies are also terms and conditions on sales agreements, or they may have a separate page of their own. Some big-box retailers leave a physical copy of the returns policy on the wall at checkout, and shipping companies may ship the policy with the shipment documents.

Most retailers will have a page on its website dedicated to the refunds and return policy. Online retailers also like to list their returns and refunds policy as an FAQ on the site. No US legislation requires stores to handle returns and refunds to a consistent standard. As a result, the retailer has the right to choose a restricted or generous refund policy.

Amazon is an example of providing customers with a generous refund policy. Due to the dominant presence of Amazon in the retail industry, many other retailers followed suit, offering a generous returns and refunds policy as well.

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Return and Refund Laws by State

With no federal laws outlining refund and return policies, you need to exercise caution before pulling the trigger on any purchase. Some states have an independent refund and return legislation at the state level, forcing retailers into compliance.

Currently, 14-states have laws regarding refund and return policies. Some regulations limit the terms and conditions of refunds and return to the cancellation for transactions, such as digital products and hotel reservations. Other laws focus more on the retailer making the customer aware of the refunds and returns policy as they enter or leave the store.

While no US state law requires a return and refund policy, retailers need to make their refunds and return policy conspicuous on its website and its storefronts. Here are the 14-states that issue laws surrounding refunds and returns policies. Check through the list to understand your consumer rights in these specific states.

California Consumer Laws

California consumer laws address requirements for refunds and return policies that you might not expect. According to Civil Code Section 1723, the state requires retailers to post refund policies if it contains unique specifications.

Consumers expect US retailers to offer a full credit or cash refund, or an exchange of the faulty product. Some consumers may require a combination of both policies if they are returning multiple items.

Therefore, if the retailer’s terms and conditions surrounding refunds and returns are different from these common expectations, the retailer must make you aware of these terms before your purchase.

The law stipulates that retailers must display their refund and return conditions to you upon you entering the store and checking out with your purchase. Retailers must clearly display the following terms to you.

  • The time you have to make a refund, credit, or exchange.
  • Whether a store offers credit, cash refund, or exchange for the entire purchase price.
  • All merchandise in-store covered by the policy.
  • The terms and conditions for a credit, refund, or exchange.

Retailers must also list and special conditions, such as returning the item with a till slip and the original packaging. There are some exceptions to the policy concerning perishable items and items sold without original packaging, or exchanges that cannot occur due to health and safety reasons.

Connecticut Consumer Laws

State law in Connecticut permits retailers to set their refund and returns policies. The only law enforced by the state is that retailers must make their terms and conditions of the procedure available to you in a conspicuous place, either online or in-store.

If the retailer does not display the terms and conditions to you, then you are entitled to a full refund. However, you’ll still need to provide your original; proof of purchase, as well as the original packaging, where applicable.

Connecticut consumer law doesn’t apply to plants, perishables, custom goods, and used items. Merchandise offered in clearance sales or on discount does not fall within these exemptions.


Consumer law in Florida requires that all retailers offering no refunds or return policy must clearly indicate it to you before you enter a retail store location or online. If the retailer does not conspicuously present the terms and conditions of refunds to you, the law states you are entitled to a full refund within 7-days of your purchase.


Hawaiian retailers have four refund models to work with when selling goods.

  • No refunds store credit or exchange.
  • A store credit or exchanges only.
  • Refunds or store credit only.
  • Refunds only.

Whichever model the retailer uses, they must make you aware. The retailer must conspicuously post the terms and conditions of the policy as you enter the store or as you leave, or online. Retailers must make you aware of any returns window under 60-days, and they must also mention categories of goods that are exempt from the policy.

If you don’t use store credit within 30-days, you qualify for a full cash refund. This refund is possible provided that the retailer does not have a policy against this, and they made you conspicuously aware. All store credit is valid for a minimum of 2-years.

If the business does not post its returns and refunds policy to you, then you can return your goods within 60-days for a full cash refund.

New Jersey

If you live in New Jersey, then retailers must post a copy of the terms and conditions surrounding refunds and returns. The retailer must make these conditions visible when you enter and exit a store or online.

If the retailer fails to post its terms and conditions, then you have the right to request a refund, exchange, or store credit within 20-days of purchase. The policy must also contain and specific terms and conditions relating to exemptions to the procedure. The retailer must also provide clear guidance on how they issue refunds, as in cash, exchanges, or store credit.

New York

New York consumer law states that all retailers must conspicuously post refund and return policies in-store or online. If the retailer does not display its refunds and returns policy, you have the right to return the merchandise within 30-days of purchase.

Returns in the Other States

Other states have no official legislation surrounding refunds and return policies. However, the vast majority of stores and online retailers still prefer to provide consumers with these policies. If you live in one of the states outside those mentioned above, then check with your retailer about the returns and refunds policy before you finalize your purchase.

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Return and Refund Policy Provisions

Each retailer has provisions surrounding its returns and refund policy. These provisions are in place to protect the retailer, not the consumer. Therefore, you need to be aware of the following terms and conditions in the refunds and returns policy before making your purchase.

The Cost of the Return

The cost of the return is almost always up to you as the consumer. The retailer may require you to either physically visit a store location or returns department to initiate the procedure. Otherwise, the retailer may also ask you to cover the costs of shipping goods back to its warehouses.

Some stores may also tack on a restocking or handling fee of 5-percent of the value of the returned goods. Occasionally, the retailer may offer a sliding scale for the costs of the return, as well. Other retailers may also incentivize you to take an exchange or store credit for the item. These retailers may cover the shipping costs of the return if you decide to go with an exchange or credit.

Return Timeframe

Retailers limit return timeframes to protect their business. Retailers put these policies into place to prevent consumer fraud. For instance, people that buy clothes, wear them once, and then return them are committing what’s known as “wardrobe fraud.” Other customers may purchase video games, take them home and write the disc, then return then for an exchange as a free way of getting a game.

Most retailers have anywhere between a 30 to a 90-day timeframe for returning goods. Therefore, you need to check the returns policy for further information on the timescale specific to your state regarding your purchase.

Refund Types

Retailers offer refunds and returns with different policies. In most cases, the retailer will offer one of three options;

  • Cash refund.
  • Store credit.
  • Replacement.

Some stores may limit one of the refund types, or they may incentivize you to take credit or a replacement product. This strategy helps them keep your cash in their business, so they are willing to do whatever it takes to prevent a cash refund.

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Returns Terms and Conditions

The law does not specify that retailers must have a refund and returns policy. Similarly, there is no law preventing retailer’s from writing any returns and refunds policy they like. Most retailers will only entertain your refund if you have your original proof of purchase, and you return the goods with the original packaging.

However, retailers are willing to play the game, regardless of your state. Retailers are feeling the effects of a lagging economy, and the last thing they need is to upset their customers. Therefore, most retailers will allow for a successful return of your goods without any issues.

However, you need to be careful when shopping at boutique stores and specialized niche online retailers. These companies may not have the cash flow to provide a returns policy. Therefore, make sure that you read through the retailer’s terms and conditions on its website before you commit to any purchase.

Some retailers may have specific policies set up around returns and refunds for particular goods. A food example of this practice is with electronic products. When you buy a new TV, the retailer may open the packaging and test it in front of you to ensure its in working order.

If you damage the screen on the way home in the car, they are not liable for the return of the goods, and you’ll need to sort out a claim with the manufacturer instead.

Wrapping Up – Know Your Consumer Rights

By now, you should have a clear indication of your consumer rights. The next time a retailer is trying to hassle you, check on their returns and refunds policy. Sometimes, managers rely on a no-returns quota to earn a bonus from management. They might try to convince you that they don’t offer returns or refunds.

It’s for this reason that it’s vital you check the store’s refunds and returns policy before you make your purchase. If you’re purchasing a new TV from a small electronics store, be wary of any too-good-to-be-true deals, and prevent the retailer from taking advantage of you.

It’s always a better choice to shop with a retailer you can trust. Online retailers like Amazon provide a safe shopping environment for all consumers, and they cover any returns and refunds with no hassles.


Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased

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