Almost every consumer has returned a purchased retail item for a refund, exchange, or store credit at some point. While merchants are required to accept returns in only certain situations, some states have laws governing the disclosure of refund and return policies. State refund and return laws are summarized below. For more information, see FindLaw's section on "Product Warranties and Returns."
Returns and Refunds under Federal Law
Many retailers, as part of their business models, allow returns if customers change their minds or receive unwanted items as gifts. While many retailers have decided this makes for the best business practice, they aren't legally required to accept returns. Rather, retailers are required to accept returns only if the sold good is defective or if they otherwise break the sales contract.
In addition to retailers being required to accept the return of defective items, federal law provides a "Cooling-Off Rule " giving buyers three days to cancel purchases of $25 or more. Under this rule, the right to cancel for a full refund extends until midnight of the third business day after the sale. The rule applies to sales at the buyer's home or workplace, at facilities rented by the seller on a temporary basis, or at locations otherwise away from the seller's normal retail location.
Returns and Refunds under State Law
In addition to applicable federal law, many states have laws regarding consumer refunds. Often, refund policies must be prominently displayed at the place of purchase in order to be valid. Many states, in addition to the protections of the federal Cooling-Off Rule, allow consumers to rescind club memberships or other special sales contracts within a specified number of business days.
Other fees, such as restocking fees, normally must be made clear in the retailer's policy language. Regardless of whether your state requires disclosure of return policies, you should ask any retailer for their particular policy before making a purchase. Additionally, states may or may not explicitly apply their laws to online sales. Below are summaries of state laws governing refunds of retail sales items:
|Alabama||There's no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer's return and refund policies.|
|Alaska||There's no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer's return and refund policies.|
|Arizona||There's no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer's return and refund policies.|
|California||Retailers are required to clearly post their refund policy unless they offer a full cash refund, exchange, or store credit within seven days of the purchase date. Retailers failing this requirement are required to accept full refunds within 30 days of purchase.|
|Connecticut||Each retailer may set its own refund policy, which must be conspicuously disclosed at the time of sale. If the policy isn't properly disclosed, or if the retailer doesn't have a refund policy, a buyer may return purchased goods for a refund.|
|Florida||Retailers that don't offer refunds must clearly display this fact at the place of sale. Failing this requirement, customers may return goods for a full refund within 20 days of purchase.|
|Hawaii||Each retailer may set its own refund policy, which must be conspicuously disclosed at the time of sale. If the policy isn't properly disclosed, merchants are required to provide refund.|
|Iowa||There's no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. If retailers don't accept returns they must disclose it.|
|Maryland||Retailers must post their return policies on the wall, on the merchandise, or on the receipt. If the policy isn't posted, the retailer must accept returned merchandise within a reasonable time.|
|Massachusetts||A seller's refund, return, or cancellation policy must be disclosed to the buyer clearly and conspicuously before the transaction is completed. This is usually done by means of a sign at the point of purchase. Goods may be returned within a reasonable period of time if no return policy was disclosed.|
|Minnesota||A seller must clearly and conspicuously display written notice of its policy in boldface type of a minimum size of 14 points. If a seller fails this requirement, cash refunds are required of goods that are acceptable for return.|
|New Jersey||Merchants must conspicuously post their refund policies. Businesses with no posted refund policies are liable to the buyer, for up to 20 days from purchase, for a cash refund or a credit.|
|New York||A store is legally required to post its refund policy. If the store doesn't post any return policy, the law requires the store to accept returns within 30 days of purchase.|
|Ohio||A merchant isn't required to have a specific refund policy, but if it does have a refund policy, the policy must be clearly and conspicuously posted. If a merchant doesn't have a refund policy posted, the consumer is entitled to a refund.|
|Rhode Island||Unless a customer has been clearly informed by a poster or other appropriate notice placed at the point of display or at the cash register or at the store entrance that all sales are final and that goods aren't returnable, a customer who has paid for an item can return the item within ten business days from the date of purchase.|
|Utah||If seller has a non-refund, exchange, or credit policy, the policy must be clearly indicated by a sign posted at the point of display, the point of sale, or the store entrance. If the seller fails this requirement, the customer is entitled to a return.|
|Virginia||A merchant must notify its customers of its return policy by a sign attached to the goods or placed in a conspicuous public area of the merchant's premises. A merchant is exempt from this requirement if it provides a cash or credit refund within 20 days or more of purchase.|
Getting Legal Help
If you need help in understanding your rights as a consumer, or legal assistance with a product return or refund, you can contact a consumer protection attorney.