We wish for our retail clients and friends a successful post-holiday sales season. As the bargain hunters hit the stores and the web, so do the shoppers seeking to return unwanted loot. We thought this a prudent time to remind readers about various laws related to refunds.
The FTC simply asks that a retailer not mislead consumers as to its refund policy. But this is one of those areas governed by different and sometimes conflicting state and even local laws where there may be affirmative requirements. Unless you have clearly and conspicuously told buyers otherwise, it is a best practice to provide cash refunds after purchase. New York requires all merchants to post their refund policies. If the refund policy is not posted, customers must be permitted to return any item for cash for 30 days after purchase as long as the customer has a receipt. California has a similar requirement that if a store does not post its refund policy that stores must provide a full return of the price paid within 30 days of purchase, but there are exceptions for perishable items, goods marked "as is" or "all sales final", and goods not returned in original packaging. Other states have similar requirements of posting of a refund policy and then if a refund policy is not posted, a requirement to accept the return of goods (at least non-custom, new durable goods) for cash for some period of time ranging from 7 days (see Florida) to 60 days (see Hawaii) or an undefined "reasonable" period of time (see Minnesota and Vermont). Again, we hope very much your customers who did not get the perfect gift this holiday season chose to exchange in your shop rather than return, but above all we hope you stay safe from the enforcement eye of the state regulators!