Returns & Refunds

There is no law that requires a store to give you a refund if you change your mind about a purchase. Stores can choose to have their own return policies for change of mind returns. If you are returning the goods because they are faulty, the Consumer Guarantees Act may apply. This Act sets out your rights and remedies if goods are defective.

When no refund policies may apply
A "no refund" policy can apply to the following situations:

  • Goods you find cheaper elsewhere. Remember that retailers compete with one another. Shop around to find the best price before you buy.

  • Goods you buy for someone else which they already have or don't like. Ask the store for a gift exchange card if you're not sure about the purchase.

  • Clothes that don't fit. Try them on before you buy. If there are no changing facilities ask the store if they will exchange later for a bigger or smaller size.

  • Clothes that might not match what you have at home. If you are trying to match clothes and it is difficult to bring the garment from home ask the store if they offer cash approval.

Returning gifts
Does the "no refunds if you change your mind" apply to gifts I don't like too? Yes.

Store Return Policies
Some stores choose to have their own "change of mind" policy, which may include refunds. The policy may state that if goods are returned within a certain period, and proof of purchase can be provided, a refund, exchange or credit note will be given. Stores that display a sign setting out their "change of mind" policy make it clear for all their customers.

Stores may have different policies from one another. Don't assume that because some stores have refund policies they all will.
Branches of nation-wide traders are likely to have the same policy but owner-operated franchise stores may have policies that differ from store to store. If in doubt ask them about their return policy.

Examples of "change of mind" policies that stores might set:

  • exchange or credit note for goods - the credit note or exchange might have an expiry date.
  • time limit on returns - for example, 14 days
  • proof of purchase required - this is likely to be the register receipt although an EFT POS receipt or credit card receipt may be acceptable if it shows what type of goods were purchased.

Some stores may change their policy for special promotions, for example, on sale goods. Or the store may alter its policy in your favour because you are a frequent customer. If the store alters its policy make sure the sales assistant puts it in writing. This will prevent confusion if you return the goods to another member of staff.

Refunds for faulty goods
The Consumer Guarantees Act may entitle you to a refund from the seller where the goods have a major fault. The Act does not apply if you have only changed your mind about the goods.

No to "NO REFUNDS" signs
Signs that simply state "NO REFUND" are illegal. "No refund" signs could lead you to believe that this policy covers all return situations. But you may be entitled to a refund where, for example, the goods have a major fault (Consumer Guarantees Act). The Fair Trading Act prohibits people in trade from making statements that may mislead you about your rights.
Here is an example of a sign which is not illegal because it does not mislead

" Choose carefully as we do not refund if you change your mind. If the goods are faulty we will meet our obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act."

Cash approval
Cash approval or "appro" is a service offered by some stores. It entitles you to take goods home but with no commitment to buy. It is most often used for clothing purchases where a customer is not sure about the suitability of the item.

On a cash appro sale the store will take payment for the item but will agree not to bank that payment for a set period. This allows you enough time to take the item home, check it is suitable and return it. The usual time period for approval is 24 hours. If you do not return the goods within the time agreed the store can bank your payment - the goods are no longer on approval - you are now the owner.

You must return the goods in the same condition they left the shop. If you return them in a damaged state the store can hold you liable for part or all of the price.