Eight rules around returns every retailer needs to knowBY Australian Retailers Association
Think customers need to produce a receipt, or the original packaging, to return an item? Think again.
Retailers might have developed bespoke returns policies that they require customers to adhere to, but leading parcel delivery service CouriersPlease (CP) has done all the research to find out specific rules around returns every retailer should know about.
CP reveals 8 rules on returns that retailers may not be aware of:
1.The customer isn’t always right. Contrary to the popular saying, retailers are not required to provide a refund to customers in every instance. 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, when they purchase products or services – do not apply if shoppers simply have a change of mind, find a cheaper alternative or found that they no longer need it. In these instances, retailers are not required to right the wrong or offer a remedy.
2.No receipt? No problem. Legally, customers do not need to provide a store receipt to return a product. As long as they can prove the item was purchased from the store, they 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.
3.Warranty cards are not necessary. Warranties are often issued to a customer when purchasing electronics or whitegoods. Many retailers require the customer to produce these when they make warranty claims.
However, customers are entitled to a repair or replacement regardless of whether they have a warranty. In addition, depending on the State, a customer’s rights under the consumer guarantees do not have a specific expiry date and can apply after their product warranty has expired.
4.Free repair, replacement or refund? It depends on the severity of the problem. If a customer returns a product with a minor problem within a reasonable timeframe, retailers must offer a free repair within a reasonable timeframe. This only applies to products bought after 1 January 2011 and the timeframe 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 the consumer’s costs for getting it fixed elsewhere. However, for a major problem – such as a product being unrepairable, not matching the description, or being unsafe – customers should be given the choice of a replacement or a refund.
5.Original packaging is not always necessary. Many store policies say 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. However, when a customer returns a product because they received the wrong size or colour, or because the product is faulty, they do not have to return it in the original packaging to receive a refund, given that it meets consumer guarantees.
6.You don’t have to provide ‘change of mind’ refunds. While its common to see store policies offering refunds, exchanges and credit notes for a change of mind (or if the customer bought a wrong size or colour), not all retailers are legally obliged to do so. This means that ‘no change-of mind refunds’ or ‘no change-of-mind refunds after seven days’ are also acceptable as part of a store policy. Regardless of the policy, retailers need to ensure it is clearly displayed in the store at the point of sale or on their website so shoppers can easily find it.
7.Unlawful signs violate consumer rights. It’s important that the retailer’s refund policy signs reflect consumer guarantees. Signs such as ‘no refunds’, ‘refunds on unworn items only’ and ‘we only offer credit notes’ are considered unlawful. Instead, CP suggests placing signs with messages that outline more of the retailer’s optimistic policies that won’t discourage shoppers from purchasing, such as ‘we offer refunds and exchanges for change of mind up to 30 days’.
8. Used items or products without tags can be returned in some instances. If a faulty product has been purchased unknowingly, retailers must provide a refund regardless of whether it has been worn, used or have the tags and labels removed. 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.
CouriersPlease (CP) is a leading courier and freight service that delivered nearly 18 million parcels in 2018 alone. CP offers a network of pick up and drop off locations comprising more than 3500 lockers in 45 locations and more than 1000 retail outlets to enable consumers and businesses to pick up or post their parcels more securely and out of hours. Owned by Singapore Post (SingPost), a leader in eCommerce logistics in the Asia Pacific and USA, CP’s international and domestic air services connect customers to over 220 countries. Visit couriersplease.com.au
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Australian Retailers Association
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.