What are Consumer Rights for Refunds?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Consumer rights for refunds vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Often, consumers believe the law provides for the right to a refund if they are unsatisfied with a purchase. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t always the case. In many jurisdictions, consumer rights for refunds are dependent upon the policy of the merchant. An exception to this may occur if the purchased item is defective. In that case, a merchant is often required to provide a refund or allow the consumer to exchange the item.

Retailers are often required to clearly post their refund policies in each store.
Retailers are often required to clearly post their refund policies in each store.

In many jurisdictions, consumer rights for refunds are protected by laws that require merchants to post their refund and exchange policies in conspicuous places throughout their stores. In such a case, a merchant is typically permitted to make up his own refund policies. He must, however, ensure the consumer can easily read the details of these policies in the store. For example, many jurisdictions require merchants to post refund policies near cash registers; some may require merchants to post their policies near the entrance to the store or on item tags as well. Often, merchants also list their return policies on receipts, but this isn’t always required by law.

Law may protect consumer rights for refunds due to false advertising.
Law may protect consumer rights for refunds due to false advertising.

If a merchant does not follow the law when it comes to posting return policies, some jurisdictions have laws that give the consumer a way to obtain a refund. In the event a merchant fails to post his refund policies, some jurisdictions will require him to provide a refund as long as the merchandise is returned with a receipt within seven days of purchase. In some places, however, the merchant may also have the option of allowing the consumer to exchange the item instead. In order for such laws to apply, the item the consumer wants to return must usually be unopened or still in new condition.

Some jurisdictions have laws that require merchants to issue refunds on defective merchandise no matter what their posted policies are. For example, if a consumer purchases a flashlight that doesn’t turn on, the merchant in some jurisdictions may be required to refund the consumer’s money or provide an exchange. In other jurisdictions, however, merchants may have the right to direct consumers to seek refunds from the manufacturer.

Laws in some countries also protect consumer rights for refunds due to false advertising. For example, if the product a consumer received doesn’t perform as expected, he may be eligible for a refund. The same holds true, in some countries, if the product doesn’t last as long as advertised or fails to match the description of the product.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


I purchased a product online. After a month, the store owner canceled and said they could not provide me with the product. I was told I have to wait 60-90 days to receive my refund. Is this legal?


@fify-- I know what you mean! Even with merchants that have a specific refund policy in place, there can be exceptions made to it, especially if it's a sale.

I once shopped at a clothing store and later wanted to return a shirt because it was too small for me. I had the receipt and hadn't even removed the tag. But the store refused to accept it because the shirt was sold on sale and they were not accepting returns for them. But they never said this to me while the sale was going on!

I guess I should have complained about it but I didn't know how and to whom.


I really like some online merchants' refund policies and consumer protection rights.

There is particularly one online merchant that makes it very easy to make a complaint if the item purchased is not as described or faulty. You can actually contact the individual seller first. But if you cannot come to an agreement with the seller, the merchant steps in as the intermediary.

Almost always, the merchant will retrieve the refund from the seller itself and return it to you. There is also a rating system in place that helps people find out about fraudulent sellers and faulty products before making a purchase. Sometimes it's a lot harder to get a refund from merchants with physical stores.


It's safe to assume that each merchant has a different refund policy. It's always wise to ask while making a purchase what the refund policy in that store is. This is what I always do if I'm shopping somewhere for the first time. If I have purchased something, I ask the cashier about their refund policy before I leave.

Most of the time, the policy with large multi-shop merchants is that an item can be returned within one month of the purchase with receipt. But rarely, some smaller, one-shop merchants have very different policies.

There is a consumer protection act in the US and you can always apply to the attorney general if you need to. But there is no guarantee that you will get your refund. The best bet is to learn the merchant's policy early on and act accordingly.

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