Since a sales transaction is regarded in law as a contract in which title to property is transferred, it is, generally, final.
Under the Business Practices Act (Ontario), if the contract has been entered into by a consumer as a result of a false, misleading, deceptive or unconscionable consumer representation made by the seller, the contract my be rescinded by the consumer. In most circumstances, where such a representation has been made or where the goods supplied are not reasonable fit for the purpose for which they were intended, or are not merchantable then the buyer may have a claim against the seller. The finality of a sales transaction protects both parties. The consumer can’t ask for his money back because he has found the same item for a better price and the seller can’t take the item back if he finds someone who will pay more for it.
It is within a store’s legal rights to deal individually with each customer. There is no requirement that store policies publicized, but most stores find it in the best interests of consumer relations both to have a consistent policy and to make sure its customers are aware of its terms.
A merchant is not legally obliged to offer his customers cash refunds, credit notes, or exchanges (in the absence of contractual terms creating such an obligation), and each merchant is free to set his own policy in this area.
Much more common than cash refunds are credit and exchange privileges. Be careful when you buy items marked as being on “sale.” Credit privileges and exchanges usually apply to regularly mark priced merchandise only.
It is important that you understand, before the sale is made, when, how, and under what conditions the merchandise may be returned. So, before buying an item, ask: Can I return it? Get my money back? Exchange for another item like it in the store? Get a credit towards the purchase of something else in the store? Is the sale final?
Many stores have voluntarily set up policies to let you return articles that you purchased at their stores. Exhanges, returns for credit, and refunds are services which some stores provide to encourage you shop there. Return privileges vary from store to store, so you should be sure to ask about a store's return polcy before you make a purchase, especially a major one. Also,some stores may charge a restocking fee for returns.
The item may be returned, and another item of the same kind may be taken in its place. This privilege is usually extended when the buyer has made a mistake, for example, in the size or colour of the item. Most stores have a time limit on an exchange policy.
Return for Credit
On return of the purchased item, the customer is given a credit slip. Then, the customer may apply that amount to the purchase of any other items in the store. This privilege is usually extended when the store wishes to adopt a more liberal polcy than simple exhanges. There is usually a time limit to apply and use a store credit or exchange.
Under a refund policy, the customer's money is returned. This is the store's way of assuring its customers that they will gian satisfaction when shopping there. There is usually a time limit to apply for a refund.
In every case, these policies are voluntarily adopted in order to give customers better service and not because a store is so compelled by any law. These policies usually require that the goods be returned within a specified time period and be in new condition. In most cases, a store will require a sales slip or some other evidence that the article was actually bought there and not some other store. Also, if you do not have a sales receipt, you may not receive the full amount you paid if the item has been placed on sale.
For some items, or even for all items in some stores, the policy be "all sales are final." A store has every right to do this and will often have such a policy for good which are on sale, sold at the end of the season, used for floor models, or are of an intimate nature, such as undergarments and bathing suits.
Some products purchased in stores have written warranties which state what a customer should do if anything is wrong with a product. You should read the warranty on a product before returning it to the manufacturer, or to take it to a particular place other than the store where you bought it.
In an effort to provide customers with better service, stores have made it possible for some individuals to abuse the privilege extended to all. When such people return items withouth good reason, they increase the cost of all items in the store to all customers and cause some stores to adopt less generous policies than they might otherwise.
How to use your Return Privileges
Regardless of a store's policy, if the goods you have purchased were misrepresented or are defective, you have every reason to expect the store to provide a suitable substitute or refund, or make proper repairs. The laws in Ontario require a store to make good in such cases. Keep in mind that, in many areas, health regulations forbid returns of such items as hats, bathing suits and other intimate apparel. It is a good idea to keep the packaging an item was wrapped in just in case it is required for return by the store to the manfacturer. Finally, always save your receipt.
Honest mistakes over items that do not fit, or match, or serve the purpose for which they were purchased, or are inappropriate gifts from a well meaning spouse or friend do entitle you to the privilege of the store's return policy - provided it has one. However, if you find that you are returning things very often, you should ask yourself wheter you are depending on a store's liberal return policy rather than your own good judement in making purchases.
Written contracts sometimes have special provisions for the return of goods. A contract usually provides its own conditions for return of the goods and cancellation of the agreement. Be sure that you:
Read and understand the contract thoroughly before you sign.
Never sign a blank contract; and
Always keep a copy of the contract.
Tips to remember
Before making a purchase at any store, consider the following:
•What is the store's policy covering returns?
•May I exchange the item for another like it?
•May I return the item and buy something else?
•Will the store give me my money back?
•Is this a final sale item?
•If the purchase is made under a written contract, how are the normal return privileges affected?
•If the product ahs a seperate written warranty, does this warranty affect the means by which I return it?