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News Dec 21, 2013 - 9:18:12 AM

Don’t Let Returns and Exchanges Dim Your Holiday Spirit!

By Department of Consumer Protection

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HARTFORD, CT - In the flurry of shopping and excitement that traditionally takes hold of just about everyone this time of year, it’s possible to lose sight of the possibility that the “perfect” gift may actually miss its mark in some way. When that happens, a return visit to the store or website is needed, in order to get a refund for the amount paid, an even exchange for a different size or color, or a return of the item for credit toward something else.

Retailers want customer loyalty and business, and most will work hard to keep them satisfied. But as customers, we too have a part to play in the shopping experience. We need to be observe the guidelines that retailers set out for returns, refunds and exchanges -- because they can all be different and perfectly legal.

In Connecticut, all sellers can set their own refund or exchange policies, as long as they post those policies in a conspicuous place for customers to see. Look for the signs wherever you shop. At holiday time, many stores print their return policy on their receipts. Either way, save all receipts, and get gift receipts whenever possible. This will make it easier on anyone who needs to return an item you’ve given them; a convenience they will be sure to appreciate!

Tax law also affects refunds. Retailers can’t issue a refund on the sales tax portion of your purchase without having your printed sales receipt, and after 90 days, no refunds of sales tax are allowed at all, even with a receipt.

If a store has no return/refund policy posted, State law says that you may return any new, unused item to the store with a proof of purchase within seven calendar days and get a cash refund on a cash sale, or a credit to your account on a credit sale. But, there are exceptions.

For example, you are not entitled to a refund on food, perishable items including live plants, things that were custom-ordered or custom-made, items that were sold “as is” or “final sale,” used items, products with no proof of purchase, and mattresses or any other items that are specifically banned by law for resale.

Of course, many gifts are bought more than seven days before they are given. Technically, unless a store’s policy states otherwise, the store is under no obligation to refund your money or exchange the item after seven days. Thankfully, most stores have an extended refund policy during the holiday season.

Stores are allowed to charge a "restocking fee," which covers their costs for returning unwanted items to their warehouse. These days, more stores are taking advantage of this option. However, if a store will include a restocking fee as part of its refund and exchange policy, that fee must be posted in a prominent place for customers to see. Check before you buy!

Finally, a word about certain special promotions: An item advertised with the phrase, Satisfaction or Your Money Back, or 10- Day Free Trial or something similar, is considered under State law as being sold with a guarantee. The guarantee is that the full purchase price will be refunded at the option of the buyer. So at the end of the 10-day free trial, if you are not fully satisfied, you, the buyer, are within your rights to ask for a refund. (You will be asked to present your receipt so be sure to hang on to it.) If the guarantee is subject to any other conditions or limitations at all, those terms must have been disclosed to you before you bought the item.

The mission of the Department of Consumer Protection is to protect citizens from unfair businesses practices and unsafe products.

If you experience problems with a business, a product, or a refund, return or exchange this season, please send a written complaint by email to

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