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Refund Policies

Before you buy, know the return and exchange policy.

Most retail stores allow a customer to return purchased merchandise within a reasonable time for a full refund or credit, or for an equal exchange. When a store prominently displays a limited or no-refund policy, however, refunds and exchanges are not required by law except for defective items. (See Title 1.7 Consumer Warranties, California Civil Code section 1790, et seq.) So don’t assume a store will allow you to return an item if you change your mind. Check the store’s return policy before you make a purchase.

Many retailers display their return policies at the cash register or the customer service department. Others display their policies on the back of receipts. If you don’t see the policy, ask. Keep in mind that many retailers require the original receipt for any returns. Some stores charge a “restocking fee” if you return certain types of products, and others limit cash refunds but may offer exchanges or store credit. Certain items may be “final sale” or “as is” and cannot be returned. Indeed, some stores may have a policy of not accepting returns or exchanges for any products.

Stores that do not accept returns must clearly display their policy.

In California, retailers that won’t give a full refund or credit, allow an equal exchange, or any combination of these options, within seven days of purchase when goods are returned with a receipt, must clearly display their policy at each cash register and sales counter, at each public entrance, on tags attached to each item sold under the policy, or on the retail seller’s order forms, if any.

This requirement does not apply to perishable items (like food or plants), items that are marked as final sale, goods used or damaged after purchase, custom orders, goods not returned with their original packaging, and items that can’t be resold for health reasons.

If a store violates this law (California Civil Code section 1723) by not conspicuously displaying their limited or no return policy, the customer can return the purchased item with proof of purchase for a full refund within 30 days. You can notify the consumer protection division of your local district attorney’s office of any violations, or file a complaint online with the Attorney General’s office by visiting https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.

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