Do Retail Stores Have to Accept Returns?
Last updated 10/24/2019
Many retailers have return policies that allow customers to return or exchange purchases for a full refund, store credit, or a replacement item. However, not every retailer has such an accommodating return policy, which may leave consumers wondering what options they have available if they want to return or replace a purchase and the retailer doesn't allow it.
State Refund/Return Laws
Fortunately for customers, many businesses have an explicit return/exchange policy. These policies can provide customers with a sense of security regarding their transactions. Unfortunately for consumers, though, the majority of states in the U.S. do not have statewide return/refund laws. When states do have them, refund policies tend to vary noticeably.
Generally speaking, the states that do have refund policies require a business to somehow notify customers that the business does or does not have such a policy. If the business fails to do so, consumers are entitled to a full refund within a certain period. In Hawaii, for example, merchants are able to choose one of four return policies and to notify customers by means of "a conspicuous sign." If they fail to do so, customers are entitled to a refund.
Federal Refund/Return Laws
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a "cooling-off rule" that provides customers with a three-day period during which customers can legally change their mind about certain transactions such as sales "made at your home, workplace, or dormitory, or at a seller's temporary location, like a hotel or motel room, convention center, fairground, or restaurant." Although customers do have a right to change their minds, it is important to note that the cooling-off rule does not cover every type of transaction. Some exceptions include:
- Transactions for real estate
- Sales at art and craft fairs
- Requested repairs and/or maintenance
Consumers who want to cancel a transaction covered under the cooling-off rule must sign, date, and mail a copy of the provided cancellation form within three business days of the original transaction. If the consumer was not provided with a cancellation form, they can also write and mail a cancellation letter.
Resources for Consumers
If a consumer believes they have been treated unjustly by a business, the consumer has multiple courses of action available to them. They can file a complaint with the FTC, the state Attorney General, or the consumer protection agency.
If they decide they want to take legal action, consumers can also seek assistance from an experienced legal professional who is familiar with their state's refund laws.