Sound Advice from Wendy Knowler

Know your rights

It’s been more than seven years since the Consumer Protection Act came into effect and still, every day, I get an email from someone querying their right to return goods for a refund. Often it’s: “My CPA rights are being denied! Please intervene..!”

Here’s a typical case:
“I bought a dress earlier this year. When I got home and tried it on again, I discovered that it really didn’t suit me and wanted to return it, and get a cash refund.

“My friend took it back to the shop within a month of purchase to get a refund on my behalf. He was advised that company policy only allowed the store to give him a credit note for the value of the dress, but no cash refund was allowed. He went back several times, to advise them of the Consumer Protection Act, but was told the same thing every time.

Cash refund

“Now I’ve just visited the shop and browsed for a replacement garment, just to appease the situation. I found a dress which cost less than the one I bought and was expecting a cash refund of the difference, but the woman in the shop said she could only give me a credit note.

“As far as I understand, according to the act, I am entitled to a full cash refund. Please help.”

Here’s what you need to know. You have no legal right to return anything if it is not defective. Not in this country or any other.

Many companies will take back non-defective goods as a customer service, but it’s important to know that there is no law compelling them to do so. If they do, they get to make the rules. And usually that means no refund, but a replacement or credit instead. Which is pretty fair, if you ask me. Put yourself in the shoes of the retailer and you may just think so, too.

No refund

So before you buy something from a shop, don’t just ask, “May I bring it back if it’s unsuitable?”, which will no doubt prompt the response: “Yes”, ask what their conditions are. You’ll no doubt be told that you must bring it back within 30 days, in a re-saleable condition, with proof of purchase, and that you’ll be offered a credit or exchange. In other words, no refund.

If the product becomes defective within six months of purchase, then you can insist on a refund. But you need proof of purchase for that too, so always keep your slips.